Estonian Kaia Kanepi and Latvian Ernests Gulbis have both fallen in their opening matches at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, USA. The tournament, ranked one level below a grand slam, marked Kanepi’s return to the tennis court for the first time since the Australian Open back in January, after which she was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Given the 26-year-old’s lack of match readiness, it did not come as a complete surprise to see the tournament’s 29th seed bowing out to South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2. For fans of the 23-year-old Gulbis, the tournament marked another week of frustration. Following his best result of the year a week previous, when the former world no. 21 battled his way to the quarter finals in Delray Beach, USA, Gulbis was making another early exit in Indian Wells. Coming up against world no. 41 Michael Llodra of France in the opening round, the Latvian battled hard before falling in a third set tiebreaker, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (3). Currently ranked at 75 in the world, the latest loss takes his win/loss ratio in ATP tournaments so far this season to two wins and five losses. With the BNP Paribas Open continuing to be played this week, no Baltic players will be in action, with no other tournaments taking place.
The final games of the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) regular season were played out on Saturday night, seeing the quarter-final pairings for 2012 arrived upon with all three Baltic States represented in the final eight of the draw. Lithuanian clubs Zalgiris Kaunas and Lietuvos Rytas, and Latvian club VEF Riga were granted direct access to the quarter-finals, meaning that only the top five finishers in the 11-team regular season competition were granted spots in the last eight. Finishing atop the regular season standings, Lithuanian club Siauliai now pair off in their best-of-three quarter final series against second-place-getters, Russian club Triumph. By winning their final game of the season and on account of having a better aggregate score over Estonian club Kalev/Cramo, who finished on the same number of points as them, Latvian team Ventspils took out third position, meaning they will now face Lietuvos Rytas. Kalev/Cramo, who thumped fifth-place getters Rudupis on Saturday to improve their position to fourth, take on last season’s runners-up VEF Riga, whilst Lithuanian club Rudupis have the unenviable task of taking on reigning champions Zalgiris Kaunas. Siauliai and Triumph have already played the first game in their series with Triumph winning to go one-nil up. All three other quarter-final battles begin next week.
Leading Estonian cyclist Rein Taaramae has succumbed to less-than-perfect health on the 70th edition of the Paris-Nice race. Following a strong build-up that saw the 24-year-old finish 2nd overall in the Vuelta a Andalucia a week prior to the beginning of one of the biggest races on the spring racing calendar, Taaramae reported on his Estonian-language blog that he was suffering from a chest infection that he expected to cause difficulties on the eight-stage tour. Despite this, the Estonian champion still managed to finish seventh on the opening day of racing. However, as the week progressed the Cofidis rider’s standing dropped drastically, eventually seeing him finish in 87th position, 31 minutes and nine seconds behind race winner Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain. Lithuanian Aidis Kruopis was also entered in the race but failed to begin the third stage. Another two Lithuanians, Tomas Vaitkus and Ramunas Navardauskas, participated last week in the Tirreno-Adriatico seven-stage tour but neither were able to complete the race. It was particularly bad news for Navardauskas, who went into the third stage in 10th position, but then failed to complete the next day’s racing.