Sports in brief - 2011-09-08

  • 2011-09-07

No Baltic player has been able to get past the second round of the season’s final tennis grand slam, the U.S. Open. The region’s best hopes of having a representative in the third round lay with Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis, who had knocked out tournament 16th seed, Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, in the opening round. But after dominating early against world no. 68, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, Gulbis fell apart midway through the second set. Holding two break points to go ahead 5-0, Gulbis made two unforced errors, giving Muller the opening he needed. Muller would fight back to take the set and eventually the match, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 7-6, (7-5). In the women’s singles, Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi was featuring in the second round of a grand slam for the first time this season. But the tournament’s 31st seed would fail to progress any further as she was stunned by unknown Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-2, 6-2. Latvians Liga Dekmiejere and Anastasija Sevastova also made it through to the second round of the women’s doubles with their respective partners. But in what was beginning to look like a Baltic curse, they, too, would fail to earn a berth in the third round. Dekmiejere, playing with Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic, would lose to the American pairing of Jessica Pegula and Taylor Townsend, 6-3, 6-3, while Sevastova and her Chinese partner, Shuai Zhang, were schooled by tournament 15th seeds Roberta Vinci and Sara Erani of Italy, who took a little over an hour to win, 6-0, 6-4.
Lithuania and Latvia have experienced contrasting results during group play at Eurobasket, which is currently taking place in Lithuania. Despite losing key figures ahead of the tournament, including their star from last year’s World Championship, Linas Kleiza, Lithuania was able to feed off their home crowd, navigating their way through Group A with only one hiccup. After coming back to beat Great Britain in their opening game, the Lithuanians would cruise past their southern neighbors Poland in their second outing. Next up, Lithuania passed their first real test of the tournament by getting past last year’s World Championship finalists Turkey. In their biggest test an evening later, however, Lithuania would be humbled by pre-tournament favorites Spain, who ran out to a comfortable 12 point victory following a dominant first half. In their final group game they recovered well, easily getting past the winless Portuguese to go through to the final 12, in second spot from their group. Latvia, however, is already heading home after failing to pick up a win in any of their five Group B encounters. Going to the tournament with the youngest team, little had been expected from the Latvians, but their win/loss record fails to reveal just how competitive they were. Leading a highly fancied French side at halftime in their opening game, lapses in concentration – something that would become all too familiar for them through the tournament – in the second half would deny them any chance of victory. Their second game against predicted semifinalists Serbia would be the only match in which they at no stage looked like winning, but in their third match they would be back competing, pushing Italy for the entire 40 minutes. The real heartbreak, however, was still to come with gut-wrenching losses in their final two encounters. After leading Israel throughout, the Israelites would only be able to celebrate when Janis Strelnieks’ long range three-point attempt missed on the buzzer. It was the same story an evening later against Germany, with the Latvians once more turning to Strelnieks to win the game in the final seconds. Yet despite getting a better look in, the outcome would be the same, resigning Latvia to one of only three teams to go home winless. Eurobasket will continue in Lithuania until Sept. 17.