Sports in brief - 2012-05-31

  • 2012-05-30

Latvian tennis player Ernest Gulbis and Estonia’s Jurgen Zopp have both suffered first-round exits from the French Open, ending any remote possibility either player had of representing their countries at the Olympics in London later this summer. Rallying back from two sets down against Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin to win the next two, and send the game to a deciding fifth, Gulbis looked headed for the second round as he broke Kukushkin early to go out to a 2-0 lead. But in what has become something of an unwanted trademark for the Latvian no. 1, Gulbis cracked, eventually losing the set 6-4 to allow the world no. 54 Kukushkin to move into the second round. Gulbis’ world ranking of 93 is now set to dip outside the top 100, and well outside the world’s top 56, where it is required to be on June 11 in order for the Latvian to qualify to appear in London. With a current world ranking of 103, Zopp’s time in Paris began earlier than most, with the Estonian also having to fight his way through qualifying to make it to the main draw. There he was pitted against 17th seed and local hopeful Richard Gasquet. It was only in the third set that Zopp really troubled the Frenchman, who advanced in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

A lack of consistent driving has hurt Estonian rally driver Otto Tanak’s chances of claiming a strong finish at the Acropolis Rally in Greece, despite telling the media prior to the race that he would change his approach after being publicly scolded by M-Sport Ford Rally Team managing director Malcolm Wilson for reckless driving that had seen him leave the track on the previous two legs of the World Rally Championship. Sitting in seventh position at the end of the first day’s racing, Tanak remained amongst the leading drivers in the opening stages of the second day. However, a pace note error on the day’s fifth stage cost him dearly. Having misread a pace note, the 24-year-old limped home with a damaged rear to his car, costing him over seven minutes and forcing him to sit out the day’s remaining stages. Solid performances over the two remaining days helped Tanak work his way back up the leader board, from 21st to ninth, but with just two points coming his way, Tanak has dropped in the overall season standings to 12th. The news was no better for team-mate Evgeny Novikov. The Russian had gone into the weekend aiming for a top-five finish but was forced to retire on the 12th stage, citing car problems. The M-Sport Ford Rally Team dropped to third in the manufacturer’s championship standings.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have all failed to pick up wins during the latest international football window opened up by FIFA. The results were particularly damaging for Estonia, who lost to Croatia 3-1 on May 25, and Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine 4-0 three nights later. Having narrowly missed a spot in this year’s major football tournament, the latest results hardly give Tarmo Ruutli’s men the confidence they need going into their 2014 Football World Cup qualifying matches which start later this year. Playing Euro 2012’s second co-hosts, Poland, on May 22, Latvia were once again handicapped by a lack of genuine strike power. At the back of the field the maroons looked solid for the best part of 80 minutes with Poland only scoring the go-ahead goal to win 1-0 moments before the final whistle.

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