Ion Tiriac, who is the nearest thing in tennis to Don King, has blasted Federer for not playing his Madrid event. See my blog below, Masters of nothing and you will get the picture. His various quotes are classic Tiriac – unthoughtout, shooting-from-the-hip nonsense. You can see what I mean:<br /><a target=_new href=”http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_sports/view/113250/1/.html”>Here</a> and <a target=_new href=”http://sport.guardian.co.uk/tennis/story/0,10069,1336057,00.html”>here</a><br /><br />So, big Ion is pissed off. But suggesting that players be deducted prizemoney for no-shows is frankly silly. His comparison that Schumacher doesn’t stop racing after winning the Championship is redundant. Schu us contracted to Ferrari to enter each race. Federer is NOT contracted to the ATP to play every event. <br /><br />But the Madrid event will be remembered for the ballgirl-models fiasco. If Tiriac hadn’t so comprehensively shot himself in the foot with that sub-porno stunt, then a few more people might take his views seriously.
Arsenal. Love their football. Thank God they don’t lose that often, as they seem to react like stroppy teenagers whose big sister has borrowed their clothes and records and mum doesn’t care. Temper temper.
It’s tough when couples split up. And it must terrible when it is reported in the papers. But even worse is when all the headlines are horrifically bad puns. So, no more Lleyton and Kim. I don’t want to speculate on their relationship, but the headlines… Jesus. Here we go:<br /><br />End of love all as Clijsters and Hewitt reach break point.<br />(the Guardian – 2 puns in there, well done subs)<br /><br />Break point for Clijsters and Hewitt<br />(The Scotsman)<br /><br />Singles again for Lleyton and Kim<br />(NewsInt.au)<br /><br />Doubles team of Clijsters-Hewitt now just singles after breakup<br />(Kansas City Star, clearly not as punchy as News Int)<br /><br />Hewitt and Clijsters call game over on romance<br />(Sydney Morning Herald)<br /><br />Courtship off for Hewitt, Clijsters<br />(The Statesman)<br /><br />Love match between Clijsters and Hewitt hits rocks<br />(The indy)<br /><br />Ace Lleyt and Kim split<br />(The Sun, typical that they have to call him “Lleyt”. Is there no name they won’t shorten?)<br /><br />Lleyton loses his No.1<br />(Brisbane Courier Mail – a bit more poignant, that one)<br /><br />… and a whole bunch of variants using Love match, game and break to get the tennis references in. Just go to <a href=”http://news.google.co.uk/news?q=hewitt+clijsters&hl=en&lr=&sa=N&tab=nn&oi=newsr”>Google</a> to see the list.<br /><br />However, the weirdest has to be<br /><br />It’s splitsville for Clijsters and Hewitt<br />(Houston Chronicle) <br /><br />”Splitsville”?
Tennis has always had a bit of a problem generating meaningful tournaments outside the slams. There are those awful weeks where three events are on, with the top 60 players scattered around the globe and hardly an interesting match in sight until perhaps the semis.<br /><br />So. What to do? Well, the ATP created the Masters Series. They were the nine big events outside the slams (not counting the 8-man end of season event) and they had more money, more prestige than other events. But still this wasn’t good enough. So, in their wisdom, the ATP changed the ranking system. When introducing the Champions Race, they decided that the Masters events were an essential part of a players’ ranking. In other words, skip Monte Carlo and those points are bust.<br /><br />Problem solved. Nine events that no player (top or otherwise) could afford to miss. Better matches. More revenue. Everybody’s happy.<br /><br />Well, the Madrid Masters will go down as the event that blew that theory off court. Of the top 10, let’s see who is missing, shall we? Federer (1, tired), Roddick (2, elbow), Hewitt (3, personal), Coria (4, not sure), Moya (6, injured I suppose), Gaudio (8, whatever). Those six don’t seem to worried about missing out on the ranking points or prize (ahem, appearance) money.<br /><br />Tim Henman is top seed, which is nice for him, but he is hardly the biggest name in tennis. Lest we forget, he is yet to reach a Slam final. <br /><br />But the real worry is the gimmicks. Using leggy models as ballgirls smacks of utter desperation. As if no-one is going to notice that Federer isn’t there. Welcome to a new sporting low.
There is something about the plaudits about Shane Warne becoming the leading wicket-taker in test cricket that I don’t like.<br /><br />1 – He’s not going to have the record very long. As soon as Muralitharan gets a good run, he’ll get the record back. This ping-pong between the two could get tiresome. Do we have to salute both men each time the record changes hands? Yawn.<br /><br />2 – He is a horrid sex-pest drugs-cheat. Warne has a nasty track record. Perhaps he was just misrepresented, but too many stories about him have come out without there being something a bit dark underneath. And the whole “my mum gave me a diuretic by mistake” sham was a sorry excuse for failing a drugs test. He was fast-tracking himself back from injury. But drugs are no way to do it.<br /><br />3 – All the claims that he “reinvented the art of legspin bowling” are, as far as I can tell, nonsense. He is an excellent bowler, of course, but reinventing is a stupid term. He just does it very well.<br /><br />What you can’t deny are his superb figures, which are actually very similar to Murali’s. The problem is, we are looking at a “chucker” vs a drugs cheat. Pity there isn’t a nicer story in there somewhere.<br /><br />Name Mat Balls M R W Ave Best 5 10 SR Econ Team<br /><br />SK Warne 114 31850 1492 13743 537 25.59 8-71 28 8 59.7 2.56 AUS<br />M Muralitharan 91 31124 1380 12165 532 22.86 9-51 44 13 58.5 2.34 SL<br />(stats from <a href=”http://www.cricinfo.com/db/STATS/TESTS/BOWLING/TEST_BOWL_MOST_WKTS.html” target=_new>Cricinfo</a>)
Captaincy is a tricky beast. All the attributes of respect, communication and leadership can go to pot if a captain isn’t worth his place on the field. Making someone your captain indefinitely is therefore one of the biggest risks in sport. <br /><br />Some captains are inspired choices. Some are disasters. The disasters in some ways are easier to deal with. Ian Botham, perhaps the greatest cricketer England has ever produced, was a crap captain. His reign was mercifully short (12 matches, 8 draws and 4 losses). Philip de Glanville was a terrible choice as rugby captain, as his inclusion kept apart for a season the best centre pairing England had ever had, Carling and Guscott.<br /><br />Some captains are the natural successor (Michael Vaughn), some step into the void and make it their own (Martin Johnson). So what kind of captain is Jonny Wilkinson? Bit of both, at this stage. He fulfills one key criteria, that he is the first name on the teamsheet. But clearly, he is the best candidate for the job – young, but experienced; talented but modest; fearless on the pitch. <br /><br />Some commentators have queried his media-friendliness, or his supposed introvert nature. But Johnson was equally quiet when he started in the job. Both he and Wilkinson lead the way by performance and ability to handle pressure. <br /><br />Also, there is a clear relationship needed between coach and captain. Think Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher; Beckham and Eriksson. Wilkinson gets along well with the new England coach, Andy Robinson, and their partnership may well flourish. But this raises the ugly spectre of “What happens if the captain loses form and should be dropped?”. All hell can break lose. This is why captains need to know the time to go. Shearer got it right (just). Johnson was almost too early. Hussain knew the writing was on the wall. Others completely outstay their welcome.<br /><br />Beckham may not posses the self-awareness to see a better captain-in-waiting, when clearly the best player for England in the last few seasons has been Gerrard, who would probably be a better leader too. Wilkinson may turn out to be a good or even great captain. He will certainly never be a Botham or a de Glanville. Assuming he keeps his form at 80% or better, his place in the team will never be in doubt. But at some stage, hopefully way in the future, he will have to step aside. I just hope he knows when.