Archive for Sport

Is this the best return of serve ever?

When Roger Federer hit an amazing between the legs shot against Novak Djokovic to set up  a match point at the 2009 U.S. Open, we thought we’d seen the trickiest of the trick shots.

Not if German/Jamaican tennis player Dustin Brown has anything to say about it. Take a look at his impressive return against Marco Baghdatis at the Munich ATP.

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Star pairs at the London Olympics

Just three weeks after the Wimbledon, tennis stars will be returning to the grass on the Centre Court in the hope of being crowned Olympic champion. Wimbledon, the home to one of the most famous tennis tournaments in the world, has a rich Olympic heritage. The venue staged the Tennis competition when London first hosted the Olympic Games in 1908, with Great Britain winning all six gold medals. Then it was the star pairing of George Hillyard and Reginald Doherty. Here are  the star pairs to watch out for at this year’s Olympics in London.

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Rugby World Cup 2011: All Blacks and the Kiwis

All Blacks at the official welcome ceremony for the Rugby World Cup in Auckland.

Being in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup wasn’t particularly my plan last year, but boy am I glad I stayed. Tomorrow, in less than 19 hours, the first game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup will kick-off at Eden Park in Auckland.

Right now, it’s just after midnight and Queen Street, Auckland’s main street, is buzzing with activity. Flags of all nations adorn every shop, car, lamp-post and person.

The World Cup celebrations start at 3pm tomorrow with free concerts, performances and fireworks to mark the start of this historic event.

After the Opening Ceremony, chances are you’ll see thousands of people with silver ferns painted across their cheeks watching the live telecast of New Zealand v Tonga with bated breath.

It has often been mentioned by the various media that the Rugby World Cup is the third largest sporting event in the world, but for rugby novice like me the trivia sounds trivial till I saw the emotion for the sport on the street.

I have been lucky to be in the country long enough to make friends and watch their beloved sport with them. Over the weekend I saw a Rugby League match between NZ Warriors and the New South Wales Cowboys from the comfort of a welcoming Kiwi home where proudly displayed on the piano was a picture of the All Blacks with the man of house cheekily Photoshopped in to be a part of the team.

People of this house got behind their team.

So imagine my surprise when every one of the 6 people in the room shouted out in disgust when one of the Warriors’ players body-checked a player from the other team.

I can’t really tell the difference between an overly physical rugby tackle and a normal rugby tackle. The entire sport seems overly physical to my football-tuned brain.  But my savvy rugby friends were appalled at the harsh treatment meted out to the player and more so because it turned out he used to be an ex-Warriors player. What made them livid was the way their player had treated a former teammate.

I am still trying to understand the game and am often left puzzled by it. But this reaction left my football- fuelled brain which has been numbed by ‘fan-thinking’ more puzzled than ever before.

Not give Wayne Rooney the stick when he goes to play at Everton or even Anfield?

How incredible.

This is when I got a rare insight into Kiwis’ relationship to Rugby and the All Blacks. The All Blacks are the country’s oldest franchise and probably their most recognisable brand the world over.  Every Kiwi loves one or the other form of Rugby and I’d put money on the fact that even those who claim to not care one bit about the game will say a little prayer if they think it’d help the All Blacks win.

But unlike the British obsession with football, Kiwis’ love of Rugby isn’t toxic. They see their team, as an extension of themselves and their country’s character and that is why it is unacceptable to them when one of their Rugby players is unfairly harsh to a fellow player.

Their love for the game is well- known but that doesn’t make them lose sight of it being just a game – important but not more important than being the good guys and being human

They realise that rugby in the end is just a game and they don’t let their love for the game taint their love for their ideals. And because of this, the All Blacks are so much more than just a team and Rugby so much more than just a game.

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Andy Murray says no to pigging out

Andy Murray really is motivated to win the Wimbledon this year. He has reportedly resisted the urge to tuck into the massive delivery of tempting goodies that arrived at his door last week.

The Scot was surprised to get a delivery of 30 Percy Pigs from Marks & Spencer after his mum mentioned she often bought the sweets for her son.

Murray has in the past few years really become a lean, mean, tennis machine. He has been relying on his highly improved physical fitness to win matches from almost impossible positions.

At the 2008 Wimbledon and at last year’s French Open he came back from being two sets down to win in a dramatic fashion.

Murray says he is on a strict diet for the next 2 weeks and that the candy will just have to wait, reports the Sun.

“They’re just sitting in the house. I really like them but I’m being strict on my diet in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll wait until the tournament’s done.

“My girlfriend opened them last night and I had a bite out of one of them and that was it. But I have to try and resist the temptation for more.

The British No.1 who beat Richard Gasquet 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 plays Feliciano Lopez in the quarter-finals at SW19, today.

Surely, anyone who resists Percy Pigs (and looks like that) deserves a trophy.

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Tim Howard speak no Mexicana!

Tim Howard is mad and you’d be forgiven for thinking it is because of USA’s incredible ability to snatch loss from the jaws of victory!

The USA were 2-0 up before they lost 4-2 but that is besides the point… for Tim Howard at least.

The US goalkeeper, who did a great impression of a fish out of water during the match, is absolutely livid about the Gold Cup post-match ceremony at the Rose Bowl being conducted in Spanish.

The final was played in front of a crowd of over 93,000 people, the vast majority of whom were Mexico supporters.

Howard felt his teammates were disrespected by the way the post-match formalities were conducted by arguably one of the most controversial football governing bodies (and we have a lot to choose from) – CONCACAF.

“CONCACAF should be ashamed of itself,” Howard said. “I think it was a f***ing disgrace that the entire post-match ceremony was in Spanish. You can bet your ass if we were in Mexico City it wouldn’t be all in English.”

Howard was seen gesturing angrily as the U.S. team left the field after receiving its runner-up medals, while team officials attempted to calm him down.

There are many things you may disagree with but Howard’s observation about CONCACAF not conducting the ceremony in English if the final was played in Mexico is spot on.

Because, just like in the predominantly Mexico supporting crowd in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night, people in Mexico speak in Spanish.

The faulty reasoning however, cannot be held against Howard. After all, the man isn’t even capable of coming up with an original rant and had to borrow Drogba’s ‘infamous’ lines to express himself.

PS: Watch the video and you’ll see that although most of the ceremony was in Spanish, the emcee, Fernando Fiore, did use English throughout, particularly when presenting the U.S. with the runners-up medals.

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Being Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal suffered an early pre-quarterfinals defeat at the Shanghai Open. Many top players would have been tempted to take a few days off from their hectic schedule before playing in the showcase Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in November. Rafael Nadal however, decided to fly to India to inaugurate a tennis school set up by his foundation for underprivileged children in Andhra Pradesh.

But then Rafael Nadal has always been unlike anyone else. He wears capris and plays with his left-hand while being naturally right-handed. Even at the age of 15 when he won his first ATP title, ‘Rafa’ had bigger muscles and brighter clothes than anyone else. Charming and handsome, he stands out in any company. It is impossible not to notice him. But what really sets Rafael Nadal apart is his heart.

To succeed in the world of competitive sport is becoming more and more difficult. Never in the past has there been so much opportunity and help available to talented sportsmen. The sheer number of new entrants makes the competition tougher than it has ever been. The percentage difference in skills in the top 10 is so small, that it is impossible to guarantee continued success while the gazillions of dollars in sports makes losing painful in more ways than one. All this makes the job of being a successful athlete extremely stressful. What truly differentiates the ‘greats’ from the good of the game today is how they deal with adversity and with success. Who do they blame when they lose, how do they act when they win and what do they learn from it.

Till 2009, Rafael Nadal never really faced a major crisis is his career. Many will say winning makes being gracious very easy. However, if you win as much as Nadal does, you could easily become arrogant, bratty and obnoxious, everything he was taught, very early in life by his coach and uncle Tony, not to be. Uncle Tony taught little Rafa to take responsibility for his success as well as his failure. The story goes that once Rafael as a kid broke his racket after he lost a game. Uncle Tony talked to him and told him never to blame his failing on someone else and never ever to break a racket in anger again. And to this day, he never has.

From day one, ‘Uncle Tony’ was grooming his nephew to be one of the ‘greats’ of the game. And true to his training Rafa was quick to help Roger Federer cope with his remorse after he beat him in Melbourne in the Australian open. An inconsolable Roger could not stop crying and gasped, “God, it’s killing me”. Nadal was quick to remind him how good a player he is. He walked up to him, put his arm around him and said with compassion, “Remember you are a great champion and one of the best in history – and you will beat Pete Sampras’s 14 titles for sure.” Roger went on to do that and more. Here was an opportunity when a lesser person would have chosen to completely demolish an adversary but Rafael Nadal chose to edify him and build him up. It is this compassion that makes him so much more than just a good tennis player. That is the importance of being Rafael Nadal. A true role model.

When crisis struck, like it always does, Nadal had it worst than most. For a sports person the only thing worse than getting injured is getting injured when you are at the top of your game. That is exactly what happened to Rafa. In mid 2009, when he got hit by tendonitis in both his knees a lot of people believed that this was the end of the Spaniard. Not many knew that while he was recovering after his knee surgery, he was also coming to terms with his parents’ divorce. The final blow came when it became clear that he wasn’t fit enough to defend his Wimbledon title in 2009. It all seemed to be falling apart for the Majorcan.

Nadal could have become one of those players whose dazzling short careers are forever admired accompanied by a sigh and a rueful shake of the head. However, Rafael Nadal’s response was the stuff legends are made of. He got back in even better shape with a new, faster serve and is playing some of the best tennis of his career. But more importantly, he hasn’t let the challenges of last year, make him bitter or cynical. If anything, he has come back more grateful, more humble; something that shines through in his increased efforts in charity. The new 2010 version of Nadal is an even better human being than his last version. Dare I say, that someday, someone will probably catch up with him on his title count, but to match him as a person is where the real challenge lies.

It looks quite likely that he top off an extraordinary year with a win in the Barclays World Tour ATP Finals in London, where only the best 8 singles players and the best 8 doubles teams qualify to play. Vamos Rafa!

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Indian Media – The Sleeping Beauty at the Commonwealth Games

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The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games on October 3, seems to have been the game changer. From finding nothing right with the preparation for the Games the media now can find nothing wrong. The front pages of Indian newspapers and all the reporters and anchors of all the news channels are awash with happy, positive news about the Games. The broadcast media is ecstatic as each Indian win is reported by beaming  TV anchors grinning from ear to ear. They just can’t resist asking anyone who is willing to comment just how many medals they think India will win and whether they will end up hitting a new record in Gold medals.

The chaos, scandals and panic which formed the theme of the Commonwealth Games coverage till before the opening ceremony has been long forgotten. The opening ceremony which in my opinion was just about ordinary, has been built up as something of a super spectacular success.  So focused were they on the dazzling lights of the opening ceremony, that they forgot to report (thank God for the BBC!) on the damage to the field that was caused by the performers. True to form, the  Indian media has once again decided to go back to sleep after a 10-day burst of activity in the run-up to the Games.

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It once again was left to the world media, to show the Indian media that there were problems that needed to addressed and reported.  The Telegraph and then the BBC and the Guardian let the world know how  a very high percentage of the English squad had been suffering from Delhi belly. That the Australian swimming team was also under the weather and that probably the practice swimming pool was contaminated. It probably needed to be checked. Mike Fennel finally intervened and that is around the time the Indian TV channels decided to run a  sorry little ticker story. It was only after everyone read somewhere else that the Indian print media actually ran a story.

Another news story that was doing the rounds all over the world and was mentioned in India only after it became impossible to ignore was about an accident involving Ugandan officials and how they were treated in the most inhuman manner. No Indian official offered to help them. They just stood there and looked at the poor Ugandans  disdainfully. It needed intervention and some arm twisting from the External Affairs Minister Krishna Kumar to get the Sports minister Gill to regret the ‘inconvenience’ caused to the Officials from Uganda. The Indian media chose to ignore the issue as they had better things like the India Medal’s Tally to report.

Yet another story that was deemed unimportant since our athletes were winning Gold medals was about the athletics fiasco about false starts and uneven running tracks at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the officials threatening to go on strike.

Judging from the coverage of the Indian media you would never relate empty stands, blocked lavatories, collapsing scoreboards, vomiting swimmers and striking officials to these Games.

The sad affair about a Welsh woman athlete being harassed in the Games Village was covered a little bit but then it is the kind of sensationalist story that the Indian media tends to enjoy covering. They have been very proactive in telling us exactly how many condoms are being used in the Athletes village on a day to day basis and how the numbers don’t match up to the the record set in Beijing!

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The Indian media needs to realise that by not covering these stories, these terrible lapses in organization, they are in no way helping the country. They need to keep reminding people of how chaotic and miserable the games have been. Irrespective of how many medals India wins the Games have been a failure on many counts. Their responsible reporting will help bring the culprits to book. It is still possible to learn precious  lessons  from this fiasco if nothing else.

Empty stands, blocked lavatories, collapsing scoreboards, vomiting swimmers and striking officials

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