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Archive for January 21st, 2010|Daily archive page

Bankrupt Japan Airlines scrambles to reassure passengers

In World on January 21, 2010 at 12:59 am

TOKYO, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) – Japan Airlines sought to reassure the travelling public Wednesday that it will keep flying despite declaring bankruptcy as its share price dropped to a new record low of just two US cents.


The debt-laden carrier apologised in full-page newspaper advertisements for causing “tremendous worries to customers” and promised that “JAL will keep flying” and that passengers’ air miles will remain valid.








JAL President Haruka Nishimatsu (L) and JAL group provisional acting COO Masato Uehara (R) bow their heads to aplogize at a press conference in Tokyo on January 19, 2010. AFP photo

“Please be reassured and use us as before,” the company pleaded.


The once iconic airline, a symbol of Japan’s rise to prosperity, filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday with 26 billion dollars in debt in the country’s biggest post-war corporate failure outside the financial sector.


It is set to undergo a painful overhaul under a new corporate chief, with more than 15,600 jobs to be cut, reducing the workforce by a third, and many loss-making routes expected to be slashed.


JAL, which carries more than 50 million passengers a year, is set to receive almost 10 billion dollars in public funds and emergency loans under a three-year turnaround plan.


The Tokyo Stock Exchange will delist JAL shares by February 20, a move expected to wipe out shareholders’ investments.


JAL shares were trading at a record low of two yen (two US cents), down three yen or 60 percent from Tuesday’s close. The price could theoretically fall to a rock-bottom one yen.


“There are still people who are trading JAL, including those who are enjoying a one-month game, with the downside risk limited to one yen,” said Hideyuki Higashi, a strategist at SMBC Friend Securities.


The company has made no announcement regarding its tie-up talks with American and Delta Air Lines, which are in a bidding war for a slice of the carrier, eyeing its lucrative Asian landing slots.


JAL is understood to prefer switching its alliance from the American Airlines-led oneworld grouping to SkyTeam with Delta.


But it is expected to take some time for JAL and Delta to clear anti-trust hurdles and get approval from US authorities for joint operations.


The government has tapped Kazuo Inamori, a 77-year-old entrepreneur, business guru and ordained Buddhist monk, to run the stricken airline during its overhaul, replacing Haruka Nishimatsu, who resigned as president Tuesday.


Yasuhiro Matsumoto, a credit analyst at Shinsei Securities, voiced optimism JAL will successfully implement the restructuring plan but said the company still lacks a solid long-term vision.


He said the turn-around plan involves “getting rid of money-losing businesses to return to profit and is not based on unfounded optimism that travel demand will grow in the future.”


However, he said, the government still “has no growth strategy. It doesn’t have a strategy on how JAL should design its international network.”


The bankruptcy, shocking to many Japanese, dominated newspaper front pages.


The Nikkei business daily said debt-ridden JAL’s failure should serve as a warning to other companies and the government in a country where the public debt now stands at about 180 per cent of gross domestic product.


“If you shun the pain that is ahead of you, greater pain will come someday,” the Nikkei warned. “The fall of JAL, which shone in the past, sends this message to the state and companies.”


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Grisly massacre footage shown at Philippine trial

In World on January 21, 2010 at 12:59 am

MANILA, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) – A Philippine politician accused of massacring 57 people displayed no emotion Wednesday as grisly footage was shown in court of the victims’ mangled and bloodied bodies being pulled from mass graves.


The video clips were part of evidence introduced by prosecutors against Andal Ampatuan Jnr, who is charged with murder over the election-related killings in the southern province of Maguindanao in November last year.








Datu Unsay Mayor, Andal Ampatuan Jr. (C)the prime suspect in the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province is led by a National Bureau of Investigation agent into a courtroom during the resumption of his trial at the national police headquarters compound in Manila on January 20, 2010 (AFP photo)

Filmed by a local government employee who accompanied police as they retrieved the victims from the mass graves in the two days after the murders, the video showed bloodied bodies, some of which were already decomposing.


As the footage was shown, a sister of one of the female victims broke down and had to be helped out of the courtroom.


A male lawyer representing the victims also rushed out of the silent courtroom, covering his mouth as he headed for the bathroom to vomit.


However Ampatuan Jnr, who has pleaded not guilty, had no visible reaction to the footage, at one point applying liniment to his neck as he stifled a yawn.


“He looked bored. It was like the most ordinary thing to watch,” Lilian de Lima, head of the government’s Commission on Human Rights who was in the courtroom, told reporters.


Prosecutors allege Ampatuan Jnr and about 100 of his gunmen abducted and shot dead the victims to stop a rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, from running against him for the post of Maguindanao governor in May elections.


Mangudadatu’s wife and pregnant sister, as well as at least 30 journalists travelling with them, were among the 57 killed. Mangudadatu’s relatives had been on their way to an election office to register his candidacy.


Police have said Ampatuan Jnr’s father and namesake, the patriarch of the clan who was then governor of Maguindanao, should also be charged over the killings.


Ampatuan Snr and several other clan members were arrested after martial law was briefly imposed in Maguindanao and charged with rebellion.


However no date for his rebellion trial has been set, and prosecutors have yet to lay murder charges against him.


Before the killings, the Ampatuans were close political allies of President Gloria Arroyo, who armed and used them to help contain Muslim separatist rebels in the southern Philippines.


 
 
politician accused of massacring 57 people displayed no emotion Wednesday as grisly footage was shown in court of the victims’ mangled and bloodied bodies being pulled from mass graves.


The video clips were part of evidence introduced by prosecutors against Andal Ampatuan Jnr, who is charged with murder over the election-related killings in the southern province of Maguindanao in November last year.


Filmed by a local government employee who accompanied police as they retrieved the victims from the mass graves in the two days after the murders, the video showed bloodied bodies, some of which were already decomposing.


As the footage was shown, a sister of one of the female victims broke down and had to be helped out of the courtroom.


A male lawyer representing the victims also rushed out of the silent courtroom, covering his mouth as he headed for the bathroom to vomit.


However Ampatuan Jnr, who has pleaded not guilty, had no visible reaction to the footage, at one point applying liniment to his neck as he stifled a yawn.


“He looked bored. It was like the most ordinary thing to watch,” Lilian de Lima, head of the government’s Commission on Human Rights who was in the courtroom, told reporters.


Prosecutors allege Ampatuan Jnr and about 100 of his gunmen abducted and shot dead the victims to stop a rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, from running against him for the post of Maguindanao governor in May elections.


Mangudadatu’s wife and pregnant sister, as well as at least 30 journalists travelling with them, were among the 57 killed. Mangudadatu’s relatives had been on their way to an election office to register his candidacy.


Police have said Ampatuan Jnr’s father and namesake, the patriarch of the clan who was then governor of Maguindanao, should also be charged over the killings.


Ampatuan Snr and several other clan members were arrested after martial law was briefly imposed in Maguindanao and charged with rebellion.


However no date for his rebellion trial has been set, and prosecutors have yet to lay murder charges against him.


Before the killings, the Ampatuans were close political allies of President Gloria Arroyo, who armed and used them to help contain Muslim separatist rebels in the southern Philippines.


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Haiti aid relief steps up gear as US troops pour in

In World on January 21, 2010 at 12:58 am

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 19, 2010 (AFP) – US troops fanned out across the ruined Haitian capital Tuesday as the military ramped up a huge aid operation with tensions mounting on the streets a week after the catastrophic quake.








A US Blackhawak helicopter hovers over a landing zone at the airport in Port-au-Prince on January, 19, 2010. (AFP photo)

Camped out under makeshift tents among the rubble of buildings flattened by last Tuesday’s devastating 7.0 magnitude quake, desperate survivors were hunting for food as international aid finally began flowing.


The Haitian government said 75,000 people had been killed in the quake, with another 250,000 injured and more than a million left homeless.


While the full scale of the disaster remains unclear, extraordinary stories of children and adults surviving under collapsed buildings provided rare glimmers of hope.


In one, dubbed “a miracle” by rescuers, Mexican firefighters pulled an elderly woman alive from the ruins of Haiti’s Roman Catholic cathedral.


But on the streets, tensions are running high between local police and many people as looting has become a survival strategy.


“Look, when you are hungry and poor, nobody helps, you have to steal,” a defiant young man named Vicent said, as people plunged into the ruins of a flattened supermarket in the hope of finding food or something to sell.


On Tuesday, US paratroopers descended from helicopters to secure the presidential palace, a once elegant white building in Port-au-Prince now in ruins and surrounded by a squalid refugee camp.


From there, a 100-strong squad of soldiers marched to the city’s general hospital, which is swamped with injured people.


“We are here to provide security to the hospital. We work with the government of Haiti. We have rules of engagement, but we are on a humanitarian mission,” Sergeant Bill Smith told AFP.


In a multi-pronged operation, US Marines also landed southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince to link up with UN peacekeepers and assess conditions to start moving in more troops and equipment.


State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said there were 12,000 troops in or around Haiti, and about 2,200 Marines and sailors are also expected to take part in the relief operation.


The military arrival at the presidential palace was not welcomed by all of the 50,000 destitute refugees camping outside. “It’s an occupation. The palace is our power, our face, our pride,” said Feodor Desanges.


But Duguid stressed: “Our troops are here at the invitation of the people in the name of your president. As soon as the Haitian people no longer need our presence, we will leave.”


Amid reports of sporadic looting, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to send 3,500 extra UN troops and police to Haiti to help maintain order and protect aid convoys.


Relatives told AFP that Haitian police killed a 15-year-old girl, Fabienne Cherisma, while firing warning shots over looters in the capital.


Some witnesses in the angry crowd, including the girl’s father, said a policeman had aimed deliberately at the girl, while others spoke of a warning shot that went astray.


In one extraordinary survival story, Anna Zizi, aged 69 or 70, was pulled from rubble at about 3:30 pm, two hours short of a full week after the quake struck.


“It seems rescuers were communicating with her and managing to get water to her through a tube. She was singing when she emerged,” said Sarah Wilson, of British charity Christian Aid.


But with hopes of finding more survivors fading, the deputy commander of the military operation in Haiti said US forces would soon switch the focus of the operation to recovering bodies.


“We fully expect that we will transition very soon from the search phase to the recovery phase, and obviously we continue to be in prayer,” said Major General Daniel Allyn.


Allyn said there were now around 200 daily flights at the capital’s damaged airport, and that two additional airstrips, in the coastal city of Jacmel and in San Isidro in neighboring Dominican Republic, would be in use by Thursday.


In a huge global effort, more than 1.2 billion dollars has been pledged in aid funding for Haiti, United Nations data showed Tuesday.


International efforts are also focusing on rebuilding the country, with a major donor conference set for Monday in Montreal.


Meanwhile, in a surreal scene, the giant 3,600-berth cruise ship Liberty of the Seas dropped anchor off the port of Labadee where Royal Caribbean International leases a private resort with beautiful beaches.


The company, which has donated one million dollars to the Haiti relief effort, defended its decision to keep taking passengers there by saying it was important to keep supporting the Haitian economy.


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Prince William eyes Sydney real estate

In World on January 21, 2010 at 12:58 am

SYDNEY, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) – Britain’s visiting Prince William said Wednesday he was so thrilled by his warm welcome to Sydney that he’d like to buy a house in the Australian harbourside city.








Britain’s Prince William (R) poses for photos with New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally before the Sydney opera house on January 20, 2010 (AFP photo)

William, 27, told guests at a traditional Australian waterfront barbecue in his honour that he had enjoyed “the most warm welcome ever, not just with the weather but with all Sydney people.”


“It has been a terrific couple of days in Sydney, and because of that I’ve joked that I will actually try and buy a house in Sydney,” the prince said.


“So if any of you have got any properties for sale then please let me know.”


The prince was mobbed by hundreds of well-wishers when he arrived at the gathering, which offered him stunning views of the city’s famed Opera House and Harbour Bridge on the second day of a three-day whistlestop tour of Australia.


Dressed casually in an open-collared shirt and loafers, the prince enthused about his surroundings, gesturing across glittering waters to the Opera House, which sat against a cloudless blue sky.


“What a view it is too, I’ve always wanted to see the Opera House,” said William, in his first public remarks since landing in Australia on Tuesday.


“The last time I was here and I saw it, it was through very small eyes and I don’t quite remember very much about it.”


The open-air barbecue topped off a two-day stay in Sydney for the young prince, who last visited Australia in the arms of his late mother, Princess Diana, when he was just nine months old in 1983.


William requested the unofficial trip as a way to get to know the country and its people, taking in a poor inner-city Aboriginal neighbourhood and rehab centre for drug addicted youth as part of his less-than-conventional itinerary.


His laid-back manner and ready humour won the praise of press and punters alike, with many likening him to his much-beloved late mother.


Some in the crowds which gathered across the city to see the prince greeted him with the affectionate nickname “Willie Wombat,” which was bestowed upon him during his last visit as an infant.


The prince took a self-deprecating dig at his musical tastes after a rap jam performance by hip-hop artists at a youth dug rehab centre, saying his choice of music often made him the butt of jokes.


“I can’t do any beatboxing, I’m not so good at that,” he told Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, referring to the vocal percussion stylings of the hip-hop trio before them.


“I normally get the piss taken out of me for my choice of music,” he joked.


“Mine’s very varied — I like rock, Linkin Park… Kanye West.”


His marksmanship impressed soldiers at a major army base on the city’s outskirts, winning approval with his willingness to get down on his belly for a live firing exercise with elite snipers returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.


“I understand he has been in the Air Force,” said Private Jace Barnett of William, who graduated as a fully-fledged Royal Air Force helicopter pilot just before his trip to Australia.


“It would be a bit embarrassing if we let a Rafie beat us,” Barnett joked to state radio, admitting there had been some good-natured rivalry with the prince on the rifle range.


Second in line to the British throne, William was welcomed to Australia Tuesday with a traditional Aboriginal “smoking ceremony” in the poor inner-city neighbourhood of Redfern, which was presided over by an elder daubed in body paint and bearing smouldering gum leaves.


He met with Aboriginal elders to discuss, among other things, the repatriation of indigenous artefacts and remains, including the head of indigenous warrior Pemulwuy.


William reportedly slipped out for a seafood platter and a few beers at exclusive Sydney nightspot Bungalow 8 on Tuesday night.


He will visit bushfire-ravaged areas near Melbourne on Thursday before returning home the following day. His Australia tour follows an official visit to New Zealand, where he represented his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II for the first time.


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Foreign predators circle crippled Japan Airlines

In World on January 21, 2010 at 12:58 am

TOKYO, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) – As bankrupt Japan Airlines prepares to shed fat in a bid to stay airborne, analysts say foreign rivals are gearing up for a “feeding frenzy” over the crippled carrier’s routes and landing slots.


The once-venerable flag carrier’s market value is now considerably less than one of its jumbo jets, but its slots to take off and land in Tokyo are coveted by foreign rivals.








JAL President Haruka Nishimatsu (R) answers questions while President of the Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan Hiroshige Nishizawa (2nd R) looks on at a press conference in Tokyo on January 19, 2010. AFP photo

A fierce battle is already underway between American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which are both offering financial assistance to JAL in return for cooperation in areas such as joint flight operations through code-sharing.


Delta, the world’s largest carrier, appears to be gaining the upper hand with an invitation for JAL to join the SkyTeam airline network, which currently has no Japanese partner.


On the table is a package worth 1.0 billion dollars — a 500-million-dollar equity injection, a revenue guarantee worth 300 million dollars and 200 million dollars in asset-backed funding.


Seeking to trump that, American Airlines and its partners have offered the Japanese carrier an investment of 1.4 billion dollars if it stays in the Oneworld alliance, which also groups British Airways and Qantas.


“It’s a feeding frenzy over the market and slots they would like to acquire to operate codeshare flights on behalf of JAL,” said Andrew Miller, a former chief operating officer at Air New Zealand.


“The alliances are trying to acquire some benefit from working closely with JAL because the restructuring is going to take two to three years, and during that time there’ll be some picking from the carcass of the bone.”


Efforts to forge cross-Pacific partnerships were given added impetus last month when Tokyo and Washington struck an “open skies” deal making it easier for Japanese and US carriers to enter new code-sharing alliances.


If JAL joins SkyTeam, it is “highly likely that JAL’s flights to America will be replaced by Delta”, said Yasuhiro Matsumoto, a credit analyst at Shinsei Securities.


But it would take time for JAL and Delta to get approval from US authorities for joint operations, he added.


JAL’s bankruptcy filing is just the first step in what is likely to be a long and complex overhaul by the debt-ridden carrier, which aims to slash more than 15,600 jobs and axe unprofitable routes to staunch massive losses.


JAL, which reassured passengers it would continue to operate flights during its bankruptcy, made no announcement regarding its talks with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines when it unveiled its turnaround plan Tuesday.


But just hours after it filed for bankruptcy, both US carriers issued statements saying they stood ready to support the once iconic airline.


“As JAL becomes slimmer, Delta would provide many flights,” said Yoshihisa Akai, head of research at Japan Aviation Management Research, an advisory firm.


US giants are not the only ones waiting in the wings.


Japanese discount airline Skymark has long been seeking to expand in a country dominated by just two carriers — JAL and All Nippon Airways — and which has airfares much higher than those in Europe or the United States.


Across Asia, discount carriers such as AirAsia are seeking to muscle in on markets once dominated by flag carriers, now hobbled by a high cost base.


JAL’s collapse came a day after Singapore-based budget airline Tiger Airways said it had raised about 178 million US dollars in an initial public offering to help fund its ambitious expansion plans in Asia.


“The JAL-Tiger story is part of an epic clash between the old world versus the new — a battle the old world seems destined to lose,” analysts at the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in Sydney wrote in a report.


Carriers in China — on course to overtake Japan as the world’s number two economy — are also expected to pose a bigger challenge to JAL.


Chinese airlines “have strong potential to threaten their Japanese rivals as demand for aviation transport is expected to grow rapidly in Asia, particularly China”, said Katsuyuki Nakai, an analyst at ratings agency Standard and Poor’s.


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Business-vocational school link key to workers’ training, says HCMC trainer

In Vietnam Education on January 21, 2010 at 12:58 am

Close coordination between businesses and vocational training centers is a key factor in boosting the quality of training and ensuring trainees get jobs after graduation, a lecturer at several schools in Ho Chi Minh City, told SGGP.


After reading a series of articles themed “The Party and the people: From theory to practice” the newspaper published, Tran Tien Duc has written to share his opinions on the issue.








Tran Tien Duc, a lecturer at several vocational training schools in HCMC, has called on the city to improve coordination between businesses and vocational schools to improve the quality of workers’ training (Photo: SGGP)

He writes:
 
Most HCMC-based workers have modest educational and professional qualifications and fail to meet employers’ needs in a city that is rapidly becoming a market economy.


So Action Plan No. 38 launched recently by the city Party Committee to improve the quality of human-resource training, including workers’ training, is indispensable.


The plan dovetails with the Party’s Central Executive Committee’s policy on boosting workers’ qualifications to meet the country’s modernization and industrialization needs.


To build a strong workforce by 2020 as it targets, besides opening training courses and encouraging workers to improve their skills, the city should also adopt policies to strengthen coordination between businesses and vocational schools to improve training quality and ensure jobs for trainees.


Upon completion of their training, trainees need to get well-regarded diplomas that enable them to find jobs easily.


Trainers’ qualifications should be improved if the city wants to enhance training quality.


“Teachers must have professional knowledge, a lot of practical experience, and innovative teaching methods.”


Such people can be chosen from among winners of the Ton Duc Thang Award organized annually  by SGGP and the city Labor Federation to honor outstanding teachers.


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Vocational training should reflect market demand: official

In Vietnam Education on January 21, 2010 at 12:57 am

Vietnamese vocational schools will set out to recruit and train 1,748,000 people in 2010, aiming to raise the ratio of skilled workers nationwide to 30 percent. The specific type of training offered should reflect market demand and requirements, said head of the General Department of Vocational Training Nguyen Tien Dung.








Students at the Ho Chi Minh City Vocational College. Career-training institutes and companies need to work together to ensure graduates’ skills meet the needs of employers, said head of the General Department of Vocational Training Nguyen Tien Dung. (Photo: SGGP)

In 2009, around 1.7 million students received some form of vocational training at institutes across the country.


Vocational colleges trained 89,000 students, vocational schools trained 198,000, and vocational training centers trained around 1.42 million students.


However, Mr. Dung said that the quality and effectiveness of the training has so far failed to meet market requirements.


To date, vocational centers and schools have recruited students themselves and held their own examinations. But starting this year, the General Department of Vocational Training will manage and monitor schools’ recruitment policies to increase the quality of students, said the department head.


In addition, the department will spend more time examining the quality of vocational school programs in 2010. While the number of institutes has increased rapidly nationwide, many focus more on the quantity of students rather than the quality of training.


In 2009, 17 more vocational colleges and 50 more vocational schools were established, taking the total tally in Vietnam to 107 and 264 respectively.


The country now has 864 vocational training centers and over 1,000 other vocational establishments.


Mr. Dung said the General Department of Vocational Training had investigated some schools and discovered that there were many problems in recruitment, training, and curriculums.


In addition, the infrastructure of some schools had not kept pace with the number of recruited students.


The department in 2010 will investigate all vocational schools and permit only those who meet infrastructure, teaching, and curriculum standards to continue operating.
Vietnam now has 21,630 vocational teachers, with 3,650 working in vocational colleges, the department said.


Most of the teachers graduated from high school and went on to study at vocational schools. They were then selected for further training in education to become vocational teachers. 


As a result, the quality of many such teachers is not high, the department said.


To improve teaching quality, the department is concentrating on training vocational college teachers to instruct in 188 different fields.


Over the next few years, there will be a new generation of teachers qualified to train students in 188 careers in accordance with market demand, Mr. Dung said.


Companies, schools need better cooperation








Students practice assembling capacitors at the Ho Chi Minh City Vocational College. (Photo: SGGP)

One of the biggest problems nowadays is that vocational graduates report difficulty in finding jobs, while businesses still lack human resources.


Mr. Dung said there are many reasons for this. Some students choose vocational programs for which there are very few actual careers available, while others fail to meet businesses’ skill requirements. Many enterprises report having to retrain workers after hiring them.


Vocational schools should thus cooperate with businesses in specifying what the firms require and train students accordingly, said Mr. Dung.


Training institutes should also be more active in forming relationships with businesses by establishing specialized departments, which would be responsible for calling on companies to participate in the training process.


The General Department says it will soon begin instructing vocational schools to start implementing changes.


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I’ll play when I’m 40, says evergreen Date-Krumm

In Vietnam Sports on January 21, 2010 at 12:57 am

MELBOURNE, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) – Japan’s former world number four Kimiko Date-Krumm, enjoying a comeback after more than a decade in retirement, said Wednesday she would continue playing even when she turns 40.


Date-Krumm, who hits the milestone in September, returned to the game in 2008 but her Australian Open dreams were shattered in the first round by Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova.








Japanese tennis player Kimiko Date-Krumm gestures during her women’s singles match against Kazakhstan opponent Yaroslava Shvedova on the third day of play at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 20, 2010. AFP photo

Despite the 6-4, 6-2 defeat, Date-Krumm said she planned to be back next year.


“Yes, even when I’m 40. I hope to be back next year as long as I stay injury-free,” said Date-Krumm, who at 64 in the world is Japan’s top-ranked player following the retirement of Ai Sugiyama last season.


Date-Krumm reached the world number four spot in 1995 before retiring a year later after failing to cope with the pressure of life on tour. She married German racing driver Michael Krumm in 2001.


After her comeback in 2008, she lost to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, then 18, in the first round at Wimbledon last year.


But in September, Date-Krumm chalked up her first tournament victory in 13 years, which made her the oldest winner of a WTA event since Billie Jean King in 1983.


She said she still felt she could tackle higher-ranked players, as shown by victories this month against two top-20 players — Virginie Razzano and Nadia Petrova.


“I still feel I can keep going,” she said. “I played three seeds at the Sydney International and I feel okay.


“My level has gone up over the past year and I think I have better chances now against the better players.”


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Clijsters and Kuznetsova march on in Melbourne

In Vietnam Sports on January 21, 2010 at 12:57 am








Kim Clijsters hits a return against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand in their women’s singles second round match on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 20 (AFP photo)

MELBOURNE, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) – Kim Clijsters showed nerves of steel on Wednesday to come through a tough test and make the Australian Open third round alongside Svetlana Kuznetsova.


Other top names also showed their mettle, including Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva, Victoria Azarenka and Li Na, who all made the second round as organisers cleared rain-delayed matches held over from Tuesday.


Clijsters only conceded four games against her first round oppenent but she was given a more thorough examination by Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn.


The 26-year-old Belgian, who won the lead-up Brisbane International, eventually triumphed 6-3, 6-3, but it was harder than the score suggested for the 15th seed, now back full time after a break to start a family.


Her serve was broken in each set before she dug deep to dispose of the Thai, playing in her 51st Grand Slam.


Clijsters could meet fellow comeback queen Justine Henin in the quarter-finals, although Henin has a major hurdle to clear in fifth seed Elena Dementieva on Rod Laver Arena later Wednesday.


Unlike the high-profile Clijsters and Henin, Russian third seed Kuznetsova is flying under the radar and looked impressive in her 6-2, 6-2 defeat of countrywoman Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.


The French Open champion, whose best effort here has been the quarter-finals, said she had prepared well in the off-season and was ready to make an impact.


“I think I’ve done a good pre-season, I’ve worked hard and I’ve enjoyed it,” she said.


“I mean, I’m feeling good. I worked on new things.”


Fourth seed Wozniacki downed Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak 6-4, 6-2 to get her campaign off to a winning start.


The Dane, who enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2009, winning three titles and finishing runner-up to Clijsters at the US Open, edged a tight first set but overpowered her opponent in the second.


“I had a tough opponent, so I was really happy to get through,” she said.


“I was feeling confident on the court and comfortable.”


“I’m really happy about the way things are going and I’ve been practising hard, so I’m really pleased about the way I’m playing.”


Belarussian seventh seed Victoria Azarenka blasted her way into the second round by crushing France’s Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-2, 6-0, while China’s 16th seed Li coasted past New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic in straight sets.


Ninth-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva also pushed on deeper into the tournament, sending Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova packing 6-2, 6-0.


Maria Sharapova remains the highest profile casualty on the women’s side and her Russian conqueror Maria Kirilenko marched into the third round with a 6-3, 6-1 romp against Austria’s Yvonne Meusburger.


In the men’s draw, 11th seed Fernando Gonzalez was the first man into the third round with his 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 win over Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan.


Scot Andy Murray resumes his quest to become the first Briton to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry in 1936 when he plays Frenchman Marc Gicquel later Wednesday.


Seventh seed Andy Roddick is also in action against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, while fourth seed Juan Martin Del Potro, the US Open champion, faces American James Blake.


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Australian Open: Kuznetsova stays low-key

In Vietnam Sports on January 21, 2010 at 12:56 am

MELBOURNE, Jan 20, 2010 (AFP) – Low-key Russian world number three Svetlana Kuznetsova advanced to the third round of the Australian Open with a minimum of fuss on Wednesday, and that’s the way she likes it.


The reigning French Open champion was far too good for teenage countrywoman Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, winning 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour.








Kuznetsova hits a return during her victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in their women’s singles second round match on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 20, 2010. AFP PHOTO

The understated 24-year-old became the first player in the tournament through to the third round and in doing so continued a remarkably consistent run in Grand Slam matches.


Kuznetsova, who also won the 2004 US Open, has now reached the third round in 17 successive majors.


She put her consistency down to a combination of experience and motivation.


“I have played for plenty of years already in Grand Slams and even though I’m 24, it feels like I’ve been here for a while,” she said.


“I just get extra motivation when I play Slams, this is for what I work for, what I play for. You just enjoy it so much.”


Although two appearances in the quarter-finals are her best effort at the Australian Open, a confident Kuznetsova said her game was in better shape than ever, as she had been working on becoming a player with more variety.


“I have worked on coming a little bit more into the court, because I had the defensive game, but then I want to come and play inside,” she said.


“I want to come to the net because I think I can play different games and come outside, play outside, inside, come to the net.


“I want to be an all-zones player and I think I have a potential to do that.”


Kuznetsova showcased her improved net game by winning 12 points that way, as well as reeling off 29 winners, to just seven from her opponent.


She admitted to expecting a little more opposition from the 39th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova, the pair having met in Beijing last year, with the promising 18-year-old reaching the third round of last year’s French Open.


Nevertheless, she was pleased with her own game, although a little disappointed to have her serve broken twice.


“I was aggressive and I think I played well,” she said.


“The only thing, I lost two serves in the first set and I had very low percentage around 40 per cent. I don’t think that is good enough.”


She will play either 26th seed Aravane Razai or qualifier Angelique Kerber in the third round.


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