I want to revel in Andy Murray’s performance, but the underlying feeling I have from the Scot’s stunning over victory Rafael Nadal is one of sadness.
Murray was simply sensational, he executed his plans to perfection and was a deserved winner. But the sight of Nadal offering his hand at 3-0 down in the third set on account of a knee injury had me contemplating the Mallorcan’s future rather than Murray’s bid for glory.
Don’t get me wrong I was pulling for Murray all the way through, having tipped him for victory at the start of the Australian Open, but it was uncomfortable to see such a mighty player left in disarray.
Nadal had a quite stunning time of things in 2008 and the first couple of months of 2009, and when he reduced Roger Federer to tears at the 2009 Australian Open final, it left the impression that he was ready to take on the mantle from Federer.
Time and again Nadal had the beating of Federer, a player many suggest is the greatest to pick up a racket, and he did not just beat the Swiss, he dismantled his game. The pair have met in seven Grand Slam finals and Nadal has won five of those. He had an 81-game winning streak on clay and was the first person to win 400 singles matches from 500 games played.
But those are just distant memories and I get the impression that Nadal’s time at the top of the tree is over. Tendinitis in his knees have left him a shadow of his former self, the air of invincibility is no longer there, and although I do hope I am wrong I just feel that at 23 he is on his way out.
Andy Murray feels the heat in the course of giving a tennis lesson to big-hitting John Isner
Big is not always better; that statement was comprehensively proved by John Isner who was given a tennis lesson by Andy Murray on Sunday morning.
The talk ahead of the game centred on this giant of a man called Isner; I heard one commentator, who will remain anonymous for fear of embarrassment, claim that he feels the American will win Wimbledon in the future. It would be a poor day for tennis if that were to happen.
‘He’s crashed 81 aces, he has a huge forehand, he devours second serves.’ These were some of the things said about Isner and to an extent they are true, but what people seemed to overlook is that he is not very good. When he’s dominating a point, Isner can cover the court in two long, loping strides but there were times against Murray when he resembled a disorganised camel. Murray’s game-plan was quite magnificent, he reined his first serve in to ensure he got a higher percentage in and worked the American around the court mercilessly.
There is no doubt Murray upped his level from his first three rounds, but he had the capacity to do that, Isner did not. There will be days when his game comes together and he will beat some very good players, but there will also be days when his game operates at a normal level and he will be found wanting. And he was found wanting by Murray.
Murray now faces an entirely different test against Rafael Nadal and that will tell us whether the Brit can win the Australian Open.
The Tiger Woods circus has rolled back into town, front-page picture and all, with the golfing sensation tracked down to a sex-addiction clinic in Mississippi.
He has kept his own counsel since confirming he was taking a break from golf to combat the problems that have ripped through his private life like a tornado.
Woods’ absence sent shockwaves reverberating through the world of golf. It’s not quite got to Armageddon levels, but it is clear that players, officials and spectators crave his return.
But when will he come back? Reports surfaced suggesting that he was contemplating making a return to action at Torrey Pines, one of his preferred events. The Farmers Insurance Open has been won by Woods on six occasions, but it starts on January 25 and that is just too soon.
His personal life understandably comes first and he is clearly making steps to combat his problems, but it is time for Woods to make an announcement on when he will return.
For all his troubles off the course in terms of his addiction, it is obvious he has a far more palatable addiction: winning golf tournaments. Weeks may go by before we catch a glimpse of Tiger prowling the course but the chatter has started about his return and it could be telling.
Welcome to ESPN.co.uk, the new multi-sport website for the UK sports fan.
When we started planning ESPN.co.uk our primary aim was to serve you with content that’s relevant, entertaining and timely. You can expect an emphasis on news coverage, but we’ll also bring you interviews and regular features, including On This Day, Ask Steven and Paper Round.
ESPN.co.uk aims to complement readers’ existing use of our specialist sites (ESPNcricinfo, ESPNscrum, ESPNsoccernet and ESPNF1) and we’ll often hand off to them for more in-depth analysis of the big stories affecting these sports to ensure you have the news and scores you need, when you need them, as well as covering the broader UK sports scene.
Video will also be at the heart of what we do. We will feature analysis and features from ESPN’s UK line-up of presenters and pundits, including Ray Stubbs, Kevin Keegan and Mark Chapman, as well as ESPN television programmes such as Talk Of The Terrace, Between The Lines and Press Pass . You’ll also be able to access our comprehensive range of podcasts.
In the coming weeks we will continue to develop the site, with more statistics and standings, as well as some new features and blogs. It will also include fantasy and games, improved search and social media applications to bring you a fully-rounded, UK centric, sports experience.
The launch of ESPN.co.uk is brought to you in association with Mercedes-Benz.
Andy Murray is a title contender
Andy Murray strolled into the second round of the Australian Open with a straight-sets victory over a qualifier by the name of Kevin Anderson.
The challenge posed by the South African could hardly be classed as stern and opinion may be divided on the merits of Murray’s display. But the man from Dunblane could do no more than beat what was put in front of him and has a serious chance of lifting his first Grand Slam title.
Murray has had chances before, he reached the final of the US Open in 2008 and semi-final of Wimbledon in 2009. Against Roger Federer in 08, he quite simply came up against the dominant player of the past decade at his imperious best. It is fair to say Murray was given a schooling session by the Swiss, but the Scot learned plenty from the defeat and the gap between them is now decidedly narrower.
So where does Murray stand in the pecking order in men’s tennis? He is ranked five in the world and that is a position he fully merits. The four players above him – Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro – have questions to answer of varying description.
Federer does not seem in the same form as 18 months ago, Nadal’s body has shown signs of severe wear and tear since his win in Australia 12 months ago and he is yet to return to his best, Del Potro has not hit the same heights since winning last year’s US Open and Djokovic is too inconsistent to predict. There are other players capable of taking the crown: Andy Roddick and Nikolai Davydenko to name a couple but they hold no terrors for Murray.
I may have called him a smart arse a fortnight or so ago, but I’m a huge fan and this could be the time for the Scot to step out of the shadow of Tim Henman and end Britain’s long quest for a Major success in tennis.
A rather svelte-looking Jimmy White entered the Wembley Arena to a hero’s welcome for his Masters clash with Mark King. Sadly that was as good as it got for The Whirlwind as his opponent showed no mercy in a 6-2 drubbing.
White may have lost a pound or two in the jungle of Australia, but it clearly did little for his game as once again inconsistency dogged arguably the greatest player never to win a world title. A stunning long red was followed by a missed black off its spot, summing up White’s game in a microcosm.
The Londoner, roared on by a fervent local crowd, secured his wildcard entry on the back of his exploits on I’m A Celebrity. He is a crowd puller and the Masters bigwigs will be thrilled with the capacity crowd, but whether White will be so fortunate in 12 months’ time remains to be seen.
A couple of lesser tournaments came his way last year, he has made the right noises about being ready to fight his way back up the rankings, but whether he will feel quite the same when coming up against some hungry youngsters at the qualifiers in Prestatyn remains to be seen.
Andy Murray was handed a lesson in humility by Spain’s Tommy Robredo in the Hopman Cup final.
No one likes a smart arse and whether it was said with tongue in cheek, Murray’s comments on the eve of the Hopman Cup final were not the best chosen words.
"I won't lose tomorrow," Murray said of his singles clash with Robredo."If I play well I have a good chance of winning. If I play badly he (Robredo) can make it very, very difficult for you. He doesn't make many mistakes. He chases a lot of balls down. There will probably be some long rallies, but I'll try to keep them as short as possible."
Robredo is a confirmed scrapper and if he needed any extra incentive to propel his country to victory, Murray handed him it.
Murray won the first set at a canter, but his game disintegrated in the second set and when Robredo secured victory in the third set you do hope the handshake was greeted with a wry smile.
Phi Taylor made it world title No. 15 when taking care of young pretender Simon Whitlock at the Alexandra Palace and the man with the moniker of The Power shows no signs of slowing down despite being in his 50th year.
We have had Roger Federer dominating tennis through the, forgive me for using the term, the noughties and a similar statement applies to a certain Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. But none had a vice-like grip on their chosen profession like Taylor. Taylor’s first world crown came way back in 1990, when Manchester United superstar Wayne Rooney was five, and he has added a staggering 14 titles since.
There have been great sporting talents from the past, Don Bradman averaged 99.94 in Test cricket, squash player Heather McKay dominated through the 1960s and 1970s, but Taylor’s record stands up to the closest scrutiny. Stoke’s famous son won every world title bar one from 1995 to 2006. He was toppled by Raymond van Barneveld in 2007 and did not make it past the quarter-final stage in 2008.
Was The Power on the wane? Possibly. What was his response? To redouble his efforts, seek out a new set of darts and take his sport by the scruff of the neck once again. Taylor’s domination of the game in 2009 was quite staggering: World Championship, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix, Las Vegas Desert Classic, UK Open, European Championship and Players Championship titles all came his way.
There are those that deride Taylor’s achievements, ‘darts is not a sport’ come the calls. But how do you define a sport? Some would argue Formula One is not a sport. Some would say it takes no effort to drive around a track. I disagree and again I disagree with those who question the merits of darts being classed as a sport.
The naysayers suggest darts is played by overweight, beer-drinking louts, but while Taylor may not have the physique of Cristiano Ronaldo, he possesses the same talent in his chosen field. Taylor will never receive the plaudits of a Muhammad Ali or a Jack Nicklaus, but darts is on the way up, The Power is the driving force and should be lauded for his achievements.
As Ricky Hatton says: “His work ethic is incredible. With his dedication he's one of the greatest sportsmen alive.” The Hitman may be carrying a bit of added timber at the moment, but i’m not prepared to argue with his viewpoint.
|Alex Livie found his way to ESPN after learning his trade with Sky Sports, Setanta Sports and Eurosport. He is running out of companies with sport in their name so has made it his raison d'être to ensure ESPN.co.uk has the website it deserves.|
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