Category Archives: Sport

Who Will Win The Men’s Australian Open Title?

So we are at the half way stage of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the 2012 season, so who is going to win the title at the weekend?

In the men’s draw it is hard to see anyone outside the top four walking away with the prize and no one has been more impressive over the first week than Novak Djokovic.

The defending champion and world number one has barely broken sweat in his opening rounds, although it is fair to mention that he is yet to play anyone of note.

Up next for the world number one is Lleyton Hewitt – and while the Aussie could ask a few question it is unlikely that he will cause an upset.

However with the way that Hewitt has played this week he deserves to not go down 6-2 6-2 6-2.

Tougher tests are ahead for Djokovic as he will face either Richard Gasquet or David Ferrer in the quarters while Andy Murray is a potential semi-finalist.

But the no nonsense manner that Djokovic has shown on the court so far this week has sent out a message to the rest of the guys that he is ready to defend all the titles that he amassed last season.

He looks sharp and refreshed and his serve and return game really have been on top form.

Talking of Andy Murray it was a laboured start for the British number one as he was pushed to four sets by American Ryan Harrison – but since then he has been getting better and better.

His match against Michael Llodra in the third round was his best performance to date as he was aggressive from the very start and didn’t let up even when he was comfortably ahead.

Mikhail Kukushkin awaits Murray in the fourth round after the player from Kazakhstan saw off fourteenth seed Gael Monfils.

Kukushkin pushed Murray to three sets when they met in a warm up tournament earlier this season before the Scot prevailed so it has the potential to be a tough encounter.

And it’s only set to get more challenging for Murray as he could face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter before a semi-final clash with Djokovic.

And, I don’t know about you, but I quite fancy Murray’s chance against Djokovic in the final four. Murray always seems to have a mental block when it comes to semi finals where he usually face Rafael Nadal – this time around he doesn’t have that problem and may just well make the most of it.

Rafael Nadal is another player who has made it to the quarter final without dropping a single set he has also only had his serve broken four times.

There was little talk about the Spaniard as a potential winner of the Open before the tournament began after he revealed that has been suffering from a shoulder injury.

However he is yet to show any problems with the shoulder or a knee problem that flared up before his opening match.

Tomas Berdych is his quarter final opponent while either Juan Martin Del Potro or Roger Federer will be waiting in the semis.

Now I don’t know about you but a Rafa/Roger semi-final is a mouth-watering prospect and Federer going into that match as the favourite will suit the Spaniard just fine.

Much like Murray the sixteen Grand Slam champion has been improving with every round – seeing off Bernard Tomic in straight sets earlier today.

But the semi-final clash with Juan Martin Del Potro will be less than straight forward as the Argentinean got the best of him the last time they met – which was the U.S. Open final back in 2009.

Djokovic & Federer may be the first and second favourites for the title but I fancy Nadal & Murray may have something to say about that. Murray vs. Nadal in the final anyone?

Helen Earnshaw

Can We Please Ban Screeching From The Women’s Game

It doesn’t matter what Grand Slam event we are bloody at we always end up discussing the same damn think… why do certain women make so much noise?

Yes the grunting and screeching is the topic of conversation because, to be perfectly frank, it is getting beyond a joke.

Surely this hideous noise, for which there is absolutely no need I might add, is doing nothing but harming the women’s game – all I want to do when Maria Sharapova is in full flow is switch her off.

But all I keep hearing is ‘they train like that’, ‘it’s a method of breathing’ and quite frankly it is all a load of rubbish.

Now I wouldn’t go as far as to call it cheating but it is incredibly unsporting – not to mention terribly irritating for everyone watching!

So surely it’s time to do something about this and stamp this awful noise out of the game once and for all.

Now many of the female players to make this deafening screech argue that it’s done on instinct and it can’t be helped – but just how instinctive would it be if points were docked?

I suspect that many may just be able to control themselves if points, games and sets were at stake.

I’m afraid drastic action needs to be taken because this really is getting out of control – not to mention that it’s desperately unfair to whoever is across the net.

No one is arguing that the likes of Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka aren’t super talented girls who deserve to do well in their sport but Jesus just put a sock in it.

Azarenka was on the end of some screeching jeers during and after her match on the Rod Laver Arena yesterday – the Aussie crowd copying the noise that she makes.

And the French make no secret of the fact that they are not fans of this hideous noise.

So it’s time for the WTA and other tennis governing bodies to step up to the plate and get rid of this trend for good – we should be talking about the great tennis these girls are playing not what sounds they are making every time they hit the ball.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

Bad Day To Be A British Tennis Fan

We may have only come to the end of day one at the 2012 Australian Open but Andy Murray is the only Brit left in the draw after a miserable day from home talent down under.

Yes if you were settling in for a day of patriotic Union Flag waving unfortunately there was very little to celebrate al all five Brits in action were knocked out in the opening round.

Not only did they all lose but it really was a rather dismal display from all involved – except Anne Keothavong as she was forced to retire with a stomach bug of some kind.

Bearing in mind that the Olympics are just around the corner this not a very good start to the year – and while nobody is under the illusion that any other Brit except from Murray can win an Olympic title it would be nice to have some home players to cheer on.

Now I know that it’s early in the season but the likes of Elena Baltacha are seasoned players and it is unlike her to pass up the chance to play a seed in the second round – she would have faced a showdown with Kim Clijsters on a show court had she got through against Stephanie Foretz Gacon – a player that normally she would have fancied her chances.

To be fair to the likes of Heather Watson and Laura Robson they were facing big named players such as Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic but it was the lack of desire that was the real issue.

Sadly Robson has resigned herself to the fact that she was going to lose in straight sets to Jankovic that the desire wasn’t there to really fight to make it a respectable scoreline.

Robson battled so well against Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon last year, in what was one of the best matches of the fortnight, but she looked a pale shadow of that player who came out swinging from the hip with nothing to lose.

Watson made a promising start by having break point in the second game of the opening set but after failing to convert her challenge really just faded away.

Now granted Azarenka has a real shot at the title in Melbourne over the next fortnight but simply learning and gaining experience from these matches is not enough.

I imagine that many of the British players want to play at the Olympics this year – you have to be inside the top sixty to do so – and the majority are a long way from being that.

British tennis just seems to be standing still at the moment we have a crop of players but they don’t seem to be making ay inroads and we can’t compete with the powerhouses such as Russia and Spain.

Surely it’s time to look at what these two countries are doing to bring players through at such a rapid rate and implement some of that in this country.

You do have to feel sorry for Judy Murray, who has just taken over the GB Fed Cup team; who is she going to select?

All eyes will, once again, were on Andy Murray earlier today as he aims to be the sole British player to make it into round two as he faces Ryan Harrison.

He may have dropped the opening set but Murray battled back to win 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-2.

So let’s get behind Murray and hopefully he can give all something to cheer about.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

Don’t Judge Murray/Lendl Partnership On Next 2 Weeks

The 2012 tennis season is underway and that means we will all be speculating whether or not Andy Murray will win his maiden Grand Slam or not – let’s face it that’s all we have been doing for the last few years.

The Australian Open gets underway on Monday and the Scot is seeded fourth behind major rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

But the major difference for Murray this time around is he has a full time coach in his corner in the form of former world number one Ivan Lend – who has been in his corner since the beginning of the year.

Now when it came to Grand Slams in 2011 Murray had his most successful year making the final of the Australian Open and semi-finals at the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open and it’s hoped that Lendl will get him over the final hurdle.

However the Lendl/Murray partnership cannot be judged on the coming two weeks as this partnership needs to time to establish itself.

But that is not to say that Murray cannot win the Australian Open this time around – he has already got the season off to a winning start when he lifted the Melbourne International earlier this month.

But no doubt the world and his wife have their opinion on Lendl’s appointment and what the pair can achieve in Melbourne and the rest of the year.

But this partnership could well be the key to Grand Slam success for Murray but it may not well happen overnight.

It could be the French Open and Wimbledon by the time we see the Lendl/Murray team really come to fruition.

Of course we would all love to see Murray finally realise his Grand Slam dream over the next fortnight but it may take a little while for Lendl to have an influence on Murray’s game and confidence.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

MotoGP A New Beginning

It was an interesting Valencia post season official test this year,

The post season test is normally has all the feel of the new season as for the first time we can actually see the new bikes compared with each other. It’s a time when riders move to a new team and for the first time get in the saddle of the new charge showing us whether they will have the potential to challenge for the podium. Will they gel with the bike -  will the team accept them – have they made the correct decision – all questions that have to be answered ahead of the following season and it’s the day when we can first compare factory developments.

Monday the first day of official MotoGP testing in Valencia saw a concerned Alvaro Bautista wandering down the paddock devoid of racing leathers displaying no obvious signs of getting on a machine. 

His problem – he was contracted to test with Suzuki, but importantly he was in negotiations with Gresini. Early Tuesday and after much talking  Suzuki chief Paul Denning admitted to being resigned to the lose of the Spanish rider, and with the deal sorted with Gresini Bautista was left with nothing more than to announce to the press his decision.

This time around we had the added attraction of being able to welcome a new generation of bikes as MotoGP evolved into the 1000cc generation. We were to be treated to the spectacle of these machines sparring against each other having only witnessed them briefly at separate venues during the season.

Post Valencia testing though did have one thing in common with the 2011 season – Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were busy showing why Honda dominance showed no sign of waning in the new era.

Off the track team managers were furiously working behind the scenes to get contracts while and media officers rushed to get press releases out and allow their respective new charges to participate in time for the test session.

Early Tuesday and with the departure of Bautista Randy de Puniet was seen ripping Pramac badges off his leathers before putting in three hours of testing on the Suzuki GSV-R.

With Suzuki still not committed to 2012 plans and only testing on Tuesday, there was a lot to prove in a very short time and De Puniet was not going to allow an opportunity to slip away. Posting the fourth fastest time on the 800cc GSV-R by the end of play, De Puniet finished ahead of the 1000cc Ducati and the Yamaha 800cc machines.

DePuniet will be hoping that it was three hours well invested and would be enough to persuade the Japanese factory that it is worthwhile to field one or two bikes next year and earn him a contract, despite the fact that the indecision would mean starting the year with 800s.

Over at Gresini the newly arrived Bautista on Hiroshi Aoyama’s 800cc bike from the grand prix weekend, the Spaniard posted the ninth-fastest time, two seconds off the 1000cc pace. Bautista’s season will be one of proving his pedigree, taking over from Marco Simoncelli will be a hard task as his contract is with Gresini rather than Simoncelli who’s contract was with HRC, factory support will have to be earned rather than given.

Also riding an 800cc Honda for the two days of testing was Moto2 world champion Stefan Bradl, who on Toni Elias’s bike immediately impressed team manager Lucio Cechinello with his ability to adapt. It seems only a matter of days now before an announcement is made tying Bradl to LCR.

Andrea Dovizioso’s move to Monster Yamaha Tech 3, ending a career lifetime with Honda to take up a seat on bike which he was certain even before he rode it, would suit his riding style.

The factory Yamaha engineers were eagerly anticipating Dovizioso’s arrival and the input and feedback from the rider with seven podiums on this year’s championship-winning bike under his belt.

Dovizioso’s technical debriefs were held not only with Tech 3 crew chief Guy Coulon and his satellite crew, but also attended by the injured Jorge Lorenzo’s crew chief Ramon Forcada.

Dovizioso finished the test fifth fastest, +1.4secs off his old team-mate Pedrosa’s fastest time of 1min 31.807secs, but with plenty of testing and development over the winter it will be interesting to see how much he and factory counterpart Ben Spies’ +0.5secs gap is reduced in February once that feedback is put into development.

At Ducati, a forlorn Nicky Hayden was sidelined by his Valevia GP injury while team mate Valentino Rossi busily set about testing the new twin-spar aluminium frame, although the factory were quick to point out that the bike was in its experimental stage.

Rossi the sessions sixth fastest, 1.52secs off the pace despite a season of heavy modifications to the bike he was unable to make inroads into last season’s +1.58secs . What the factory do between now and Sepang will be crucial in what is to be a make-or-break season in 2012, but Ducati are confident the new rules on official testing will aid their development.

The CRT (claiming rule teams) – of the six CRT’s who have initially secured a place on the 2012 grid on one was in attendance at Valencia: BQR were testing their FTR/Kawasaki rider Yonny Hernandez, who steps up from Moto2 with them.

Forward Racing, the only other entry with a confirmed rider and bike explained their test absence was due to Colin Edwards’ ongoing recovery from a shoulder dislocated in the crash in Sepang.

Kiefer Racing have decided to stay in Moto2, while Marc VDS and Paddock GP are showing no further appetite for a move into CRT. Andrea Iannone’s Speed Master team were delayed due to the uncertainty as to the riders ambitions for the Gresini vacancy before Bautista signed on the dotted line and with Gresini’s CRT ride looking certain to be given to their Moto2 rider Michele Pirro Speed Master are back working on their CRT plan.

Three new teams were testing – Spanish teams BQR Inmotec and Laglisse along with Italian outfit Gapam .

The times were well off the leaders  but it is still early days and with more testing time available to them than the MotoGP outfits, hopefully we will see an accelerated development by the time the Sepang tests are completed.

Aspar were the only current team not to test in Valencia, which was not surprising as the team had no rider and their bike options for their new CRT project are still unconfirmed., 

It is unlikely that the CRT bikes with production-based engines will prove competitive from the offset in a world of million-dollar development budgets and advanced electronics the teams will have a hard task in front of them, although the idea seems to be that over time there will be more CRTs and fewer factories.

The main issue to overcome if this is to happen will be how they get around the ever increasing leasing costs the factories are charging the satellite teams which have seen Gresini and Pramac down to one leased bike each and Aspar to abandon their MotoGP project altogether in favour of becoming a CRT, something has to be done to tackle the dwindling grid numbers in the premier class.

In efforts to reduce costs this year has seen the rules relaxed on rider testing and Dorna chief executive Carmelo Ezpeleta has now hinted at a change in regulations regarding electronics – arguably the biggest factor in the four seconds a lap between factory and claiming rules bikes – saying “in the future there will be equal electronics for everyone”.

If all these CRTs actually start 2012 along with Paul Bird’s expected entry, we could see over 20 bikes on the grid next season. With 2012 being a first tentative step for both the new teams and the regulators, the future of CRTs is an exciting possibility.

 

Marco Simoncelli

Marco Simoncelli the was the most exciting thing to happen to motorcycle racing since Valentino Rossi and eventual successor to his crown.

That sums up the guy, fearless on the track never intimidated by the reputation of others a born competitor and a born winner.

Yet here we are talking about the demise of a wonderful person and a talent lost to a sport that will be all the poorer for his absence.

It has taken me until today to really put these feelings and thoughts together my personal recollections about Marco Simoncelli.

I had the honour to meet Marco in the pit lane of Silverstone while on my way to talk to another MotoGP hero Nicky Hayden, and although my meeting was quick and fleeting you could not miss the aura the surrounded the man.

As he headed to his trailer followed by a crowd of ‘afro’ wig wearing fans it struck me as to how connected to his fans he was and the mutual appreciation between them..

His last moments of life were lap and a half of pure competitive racing, jousting with Alvaro Bautista, with skill panache, giving no quarter. Riding at the edge, the way he always did, relishing his one sporting passion that of adrenalin filled motorcycle racing.

Then that fateful tragedy on turn eleven when Marco lost control of his bike veering across and into Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi with the resulting collision ending the life of the Italian.

Long time friend and mentor Valentino Rossi could not bring himself to talk to the media, he later took to his Twitter account and simply said: “Sic for me was like a youngest brother. So strong on track and so sweet in the normal life. I will miss him a lot.”

Marco Simoncelli will return home to Coriano, were the funeral will take place Thursday, October 27 at 3:00pm in the church of Santa Maria di Coriano. The Italian will be buried in the cemetery of this town, near Riccione, where he was born 24 short years ago.

‘God speed Super Sic 58′

Gresini Hoda have withdrawn from final MotoGP race

Gresini Honda have withdrawn from the Valencia MotoGP in November following the death of their rider Marco Simoncelli on Sunday.

Simoncelli, 24, was killed when he was struck by Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi after in a crash in Malaysia.

Team boss Fausto Gresini also confirmed his riders would miss the tests which follow on from the final race of the season in Spain on 6 November.

Gresini said: “The only certainty is that my team won’t participate.”

The Premier League Managerial Merry-Go-Round

It’s that time of year again – Premier League chairmen get incredibly Scrooge-like and cast the manager adrift, right in the midst of a Christmas fixture pile-up.

First to jump this season is perennial puppet master Mike Ashley at Newcastle. In fact it was strange that no one had sacked earlier but that seemed to be down to everyone in the Premier League struggling all at once.

What was most shocking was it was Chris Hughton who won first place in the Premier League sack race. Great results such as 6-0 against Aston Villa and thoroughly pummelling bitter rivals Sunderland 5-1, didn’t count for much for Hughton and he was well and truly shafted.

Reports suggested that Ashley had already made his mind up and was waiting for a slight dip in form before sacking Hughton and appointing Alan Pardew as his replacement.

Pardew with all due respect, isn’t a terrible manager but it’s the timing of the decision and the general bad taste it left in the mouth of fans and pundits.

It’s not the first time he’s made a big call, most notably getting rid of “Big” Sam Allardyce in 2008, when he wasn’t doing a bad job either.

This leads us nicely onto sacking No 2. Big Sam became the first cull of the new Venky’s regime at Blackburn, with the board claiming the proponent of defensive football was no longer in their plans.

Once again, this decision shocked everyone. Big Sam had become part of the furniture at Rovers, and whatever you may think of Allardyce rugged, and at times visually impairing style of direct football, it gets results. Allardyce has a reputation of turning unfashionable clubs into well-oiled machines.

With paper talk of Diego Maradona or Alan Shearer being his replacement, it’s clear that the new board want a stylish brand of football, which isn’t going to happen overnight like they seem to expect. Or the fact that those suggestions aren’t exactly guys with managerial pedigree. It was a foolish decision that could ultimately cost Blackburn a Premier League place.

Chairmen seem to have become increasingly trigger-happy over the past few seasons and you begin to wonder if there’s any point in having a manager installed. It seems to have become rare to see a chairman actually trust a manager during a slump. There are good chairmen in the league; just it’s become increasingly scarce number.

Question is who is next? Avram Grant reportedly has 3 games to save himself as West Ham boss, and the person I thought would be sacked first this season, looks a dead man walking. Maybe this call is justifiable. Grant’s not got results or played particularly good football but who’d want the job or the chance to become a survival saviour?
The managerial chairman tug of war rears its head every season but this campaign’s isolated incidents have made you realise how fickle chairmen can be.

What we’d give to see someone given 20+ years in the job a la Alex Ferguson. Only then could a team truly reap the dividends of vast amounts of silverware. Still it’s the industry we buy into now…

Female First – Chris Mayer

Wayne Rooney WILL Play Tonight Despite Being A Cheat

Cheating in his private life hasn’t been enough to keep Wanye Rooney from the beautiful game as he gets ready to kick a ball around a field in Switzerland tonight.

Wayne isn’t going to let a little thing like sleeping with a hooker whilst his wife was expecting their first child affect his life, and tonight he’ll be representing the UK when the England football team play Switzerland.

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Whilst Capello hasn’t announced the final line-up just yet, it is thought that Wanye will be making an appearance after the bossman said; “I spoke with him and he is happy to play. The players know what they have to do with their private life. It is their private life, though. He said he was focused and that he wanted to play against Switzerland.”

I can’t see many England fans cheering him on tonight, especially since he chose to text – yes, text – Coleen to warn her about the story coming out in the papers…while she was having her hair done! Ooh, he makes me so cross!

Ruth.x

Tiger Woods Pays His Ex £500 Million In Divorce

‘Cor Blimey, Elin Nordegren might have found her loverat husband sticking his club in some other woman, but at least she can take comfort in the fact that she’s bagged a tidy £500 Million from the cheating chump.

Okay, we know ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ and all that, but £500 million? You can’t tell me that isn’t going to make her feel a whole lot better!

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With papers citing that their marriage was “irretrievably broken,” they have agreed to share custody of their two children and both released a statement wishing the other all the best.

Elin signed a pre-nup when she first wed Tiger back in October 2004, but this was made null and void after he had his wicked way with an alleged 20 women or more behind her back.

Ruth.x