Sports in brief - 2011-09-01

  • 2011-08-31

Two of three Baltic tennis players have advanced to the second round of the year’s final grand slam, the U.S. Open in New York. Latvia’s Ernest Gulbis will make his first second round appearance at a grand slam this year, alongside Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who will be making her third second round grand slam appearance of the season. The news, however, was not so good for Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, who was ousted in the opening round in straight sets, 6-3,6-4 by Vera Dushevina of Russia. Hopes had been high for the 21-year-old, who last week had made it to the quarterfinals of the Texas Open. Gulbis’ victory provided one of the talking points of the opening round, ousting tournament 16th seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. Youzhny is one of the biggest high-profile players to fail to make it past the first round. The 23-year-old Latvian will now come up against Gilles Miller of Luxemburg on Thursday. It will be the first time that the pairing has met. At 53 in the world, Gulbis is ranked 15 spots above his opponent. Kanepi also had little difficulty in advancing to the second round, easily accounting for Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-4, 6-3 in her first competitive play since Wimbledon back in June. The 31st seeded Kanepi will now come up against the unheralded Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa in the second round.

The four Baltic riders entered in this year’s Tour of Spain (la Vuelta) have found the going tough, with all four languishing near the back of the field following 10 of 21 stages. Hopes had been high of Estonia’s Rein Taaramae recording a top ten finish but, instead, he finds himself sitting in 104th position overall, 1 hour, 11 minutes and 36 seconds behind race leader Christopher Froome of Great Britain. Despite Taaramae’s Cofidis team manager stating before the race that he was confident that both Taaramae and his French teammate, David Moncoutie, could record high finishes, Taaramae has since claimed that he is putting personal glory aside to try and help Moncoutie reclaim the tour’s blue polka dot jersey (which is awarded to the tour’s best climber) for a fourth consecutive year. Moncoutie currently sits in sixth position overall in the climber standings. Taaramae’s countryman, Tanel Kangert, is currently sitting the best of the Baltic riders in 77th position, 53 minutes and 35 seconds behind Froome. Lithuanian Ignatas Konovalovas is currently in 115th place overall while Latvia’s Aleksejs Saramotins is coming second to last of the remaining riders, in 184th place.

UEFA Euro 2012 qualification continues on Friday, Sept. 2, with all Baltic nations in action. Following an embarrassing 2-0 away loss to Lichtenstein back on June 3, Lithuania will now look to revenge the loss when they take on the tiny municipality back on home soil. Sitting on four points with three games remaining, Lithuania still remain an outside chance of moving on from Group I in second position, placing them in the playoff round. Another team looking to recover from an embarrassing loss is Estonia. Their last result in Euro qualifying was just as bad as that of Lithuania’s, losing 2-0 away to the Faroe Islands. On Friday they need to beat Slovenia on the road to not only end a five game losing streak, but to also put themselves back in Group C contention. Playing away to Georgia on Friday, Latvia will be looking to double their Group F wins to two. Latvia has struggled throughout the qualifying campaign and will now simply be playing for pride in their remaining four matches.