HONG KONG (AP): Venus Williams saw her chance of qualifying for the season-ending WTA Finals slip away yesterday after losing in straight sets to Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open. Seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams, seeded third, was defeated 6-4, 7-5 in a tense encounter which lasted two hours and four minutes in front of a packed centre court at Victoria Park. “It is disappointing. I had an off day, while she probably played one of her best matches this year,” Williams said. The 35-year-old Williams needed to reach the final today to boost her chances of playing in the lucrative WTA Finals, starting October 25 in Singapore. The last time Williams played in the WTA Finals – where only the world’s top eight-ranked singles players qualify – was in 2009 in Doha. Fourth-seeded Jankovic was helped by a wayward opponent whose usually strong serve deserted her. Williams also failed to take her chances, only converting two of 16 break points in the match. Last-minute wild card entry Jankovic will now meet Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the final. Kerber moved within one win of cementing her place in the WTA Finals after beating Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 6-2. Second-seeded Kerber is presently ranked fifth in the Road to Singapore leaderboard and can book her ticket if she adds the Hong Kong Open title to her wins in Charleston, Stuttgart, Birmingham and Stanford. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has made winning so routine this year that even when he dominates one of his biggest rivals, he takes it in stride. The top-ranked Serb broke Andy Murray five times en route to a 6-1, 6-3 win in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters yesterday, one of his most lopsided victories ever over the two-time major winner. Afterward, Djokovic said he would only allow himself to enjoy the victory for a moment before turning his attention to today’s final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a 6-4, 0-6, 7-5 winner over Rafael Nadal in the other semi-final.
Think ‘COOL’, and if you are a cricket fan, chances are you’ll think of Christopher Henry Gayle first. That’s the aura of the man – whether he is pulling off an afro hairstyle or lime-green shades, tweeting about himself in the third person or depositing all comers beyond the long-on boundary with giant swings of his blade – he just exudes ‘cool’. Gayle turns 33 on Friday but will hold off the party till the next day, when the West Indies take on Australia in their opening match of the tournament.At an interaction after practice on Thursday, Gayle was asked about his birthday plans, and his reply, to the delight of the gathered reporters was: “I am going to spend it with the West Indian women’s team.” After peals of laughter, Gayle continued with a grin: “Well…(Ill) have a quiet drink and sit around. So, looking forward to it. But I am looking to really celebrate after a win against Australia.”When a reporter ventured to ask whether T20 had become an old man’s game, Gayle mock-chided him, saying: “You mean, I’m old?” Then, on a more serious note, he added: “I think you can play it for a long time, but it’s good to be 33 and I am looking forward to playing with all the youngsters.” Gayle is a master at clearing the boundary and, when asked for the secret behind it, he explained how it just came naturally to him.”A bit of strength work, to be honest, and once the ball is in your slot, you go for it. I am sure everyone can hit a six these days. It doesn’t seem so hard these days and with everybody getting big bats, clearing the boundary is easy. Its instinct.advertisement”I play like this naturally. Even in Test cricket and ODIs, before T20 came around, this is how I used to play. But you learn different skills in T20 and you can take them to Tests and make a lot more runs. It adds to the fun factor as well,” he said.A lot of experts have rated the West Indies as favourites for the title, an unfamiliar position for the team in recent years. But former skipper Gayle wants the team to go step by step. “Look at our team – we can bat right down; bowling-wise, we have spinners and fast bowlers. The key for us is to get to the second round and try and take it step by step.”