Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: June 2005 (page 1 of 2)

I seem to have pissed someone off

Sadly, I have no idea who it is. I guess it is the author of the tennis-X website newsletter, which I really should subscribe to. You can see what I am talking about here:<br />
<br />
<a href=”http://www.tennis-x.com/xboard/viewtopic.php?t=506″>http://www.tennis-x.com/xboard/viewtopic.php?t=506</a><br />
(although watch out for all the horrid pop-ups that blight their site.)<br />
<br />
They are upset about my <a href=”http://news.ft.com/cms/s/bd4db5c8-df3e-11d9-84f8-00000e2511c8.html”>Wimbledon preview</a> that I wrote for the FT, specifically the bit where I dismiss Safin’s chances saying that he has “never adapted his power game to grass”. Tennis-X counter with:<br />
<br />
“Rob apparently missed Federer barely beating Marat in three sets in the Halle final? Stick to writing the financial pages. We don’t try to tell you how to invest your 401K.”<br />
<br />
Good point, although the personal jibe isn’t very pleasant. We have all made mistakes. I perhaps should have mentioned Safin getting to the Halle final. However, in my defence:<br />
<br />
– The only player to convert winning Halle to winning Wimbledon in the same year is Federer. <br />
– Getting to a grass court tune-up final means sod-all. Otherwise Wimbledon would be saluting Kafelnikov, Matsuoka, Ferreira, Forget and a whole bunch of others as champions or finalists. None of them converted success at Queens or Halle into anything like success at Wimbledon.<br />
– Safin has one quarter-final at SW19 to his name, which given his game (huge serve, massive groundstrokes, decent volley) is small beer. Therefore my comment about his temprament is, I think, valid.<br />
<br />
And, look, Marat lost in the 3rd round. To a player he should have beaten. I rest my case.

The women’s event gets interesting

On the women’s side of things the last few majors have been pretty disappointing, so it’s good to see some decent matches and a competitive draw. Weirdly, the two most dominant players of the last few years, Serena Williams and Justine H-H went out early. Instead, the interest is coming from a few resurgent players.<br />
<br />
Mary Pierce plays Venus Williams, and both look like they are giving it one final flutter. Both players haven’t won a slam in years. Pierce did well to reach the French final, and seems to be having fun, though she is still clearly a bit bonkers. Williams has looked bored with the game for quite a while now, but at Wimbledon she has suddenly woken up, remembered that she won this thing a few times, and could go all the way.<br />
<br />
Lindsay Davenport is still number one, still hasn’t won a slam since god knows when, and is still in the draw. Her match against Kuznetsova will be interesting – the Russian is still the US Open champ after all.<br />
<br />
Another intriguing quarter match-up is Amelie Mauresmo vs Anastasia Myskina – Mauresmo is so overdue winning a major it is getting silly. I have been saying “perhaps this is her year” so many times, but maybe this time…<br />
<br />
And of course, there is still Maria Sharapova. Thank God, otherwise who could we put on the front of all the papers? My prediction is a Sharapova – Mauresmo final. 3 sets. Sharapova to win.

If you’re gonna lose, lose badly

First Tim, then the England cricket team, then the Lions. Bugger.<br />
<br />
Right. Henman’s loss should be put in perspective. He has actually OVER-achieved at Wimbledon, reaching the second week every year since 1995. He was due a second-round loss sometime – this is not the end of his career. Think how many shock early exits Agassi had in his time, even Sampras now and then. This happens.<br />
<br />
Cricket – well, it’s still early days, but I don’t see the Aussies losing too many more matches. They look like a team improving all the time. They really gave England a good working over in the last match. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.<br />
<br />
For the Lions, the future is pretty bleak. Stuffed 21-3, they have a week to sort out almost every aspect of their game. Line out, scrum, backs. Anything else? Oh, flyout a few replacements for BO’D and Hill. This is a disaster. <br />
<br />
Sir Clive Woowoo really needs to change the selection policy and go for form rather than reputation, and pick anyone Welsh. Get Henson in there, drop Robinson, get Sheridan on the bench, call up Martin Johnson – oh, not the last one. But do something different. Losing can also become a habit.

Odd man out

45 players on tour. 22 per squad. So who is the lonely man who didn’t make Tuesday OR Saturday’s test team sheet?<br />
<br />
Shane Williams. <br />
<br />
This sums up the whole Lions tour. He has played better than Jason Robinson, but Sir Clive Woodward has picked according to some unknown principles. That, or he is just going with the English 2003 bunch, regardless of form.<br />
<br />
Now, I remember after the 6 nations, the dark lord of the coaches booth stated that only ONE English player would make his Lions test team at that time. So, where have these other SEVEN come from?<br />
<br />
I could go on for ever. This is a joke. I almost want the Lions to get stuffed so that Woodward sees the error of his ways, and picks the best players for the second test. Arggh. Matt Dawson is going to come on, the annoying git.<br />
<br />
I forgot to mention the tennis! Quickly, Tim Henman is dull, get Andrew Murray on centre, he looks like a winner. Oh, sod it, read about it here:<br />
<a href=”http://news.ft.com/sportnews/tennis”>http://news.ft.com/sportnews/tennis</a>

Bestest Lions fan EVER

This award goes to, well, me. I present a strong case.<br />
<br />
– So far, I haven’t missed a single minute of any match, except to get the croissants out of the oven for the hungry troops gathered at my pad.<br />
– I have an I-Pod Shuffle. There is only one song on it – the Lions song.<br />
<br />
Here are the lyrics, so you can cut out and keep for the next match. Sing along with the strangely grey crooning ex-club player that has been dug out of “Colin’s sliver cloud lounge” by the local rugby promoter. Think triumphant, think powerful. Think Lions. Uplifting.<br />
<br />
“From the four corners of our lands,<br />
We’re united, hand in hand.<br />
Together we’re stronger,<br />
We join and proud we stand.<br />
Now the day has come, we are one,<br />
Standing tall for our Lions call.<br />
We’re stronger, together,<br />
We are the power of four.”<br />
<br />

Woodward’s choice

The non-test squad has been announced for a few days now, and I can’t for the life of me work out what is going on. Woodward has maintained that anyone selected for Tuesday&#8217;s Lions game against Southland will not feature in the first test. <br />
<br />
In which case, what on earth have Andrew Sheridan and Chris Cusiter done wrong? They have been at least worth a spot in the 22 for the first test. All the media attention is on Henson, being such a media darling, but he has not really impressed. None of the other centres has done that well either, so it looks like JonnyW will play 12. And how long have they played that formation? 20 minutes. The All Blacks will be delighted.<br />
<br />
Other players who are damn lucky to be in the test running are Jason Robinson, Will Greenwood and Steve Thompson. Of the Tuesday bunch, Mark Cueto, Olly Smith and Gordon Bulloch have been much better.<br />
<br />
So, we are left with the following conclusions. Either Woodward is considering players from Tuesday for the test, going back on his word. Or he is picking on experience rather than form, which he said he wouldn’t do. God I hope it’s the former. Otherwise, the Lions could quite conceivably get utterly stuffed.

When tours go bad

“On tour” is a lovely excuse. It used to mean getting away with anything and everything, and is an expression that has been wheeled out on several stag do’s that I have been on. Stuff of legend. They can also be ghastly affairs. Both the Lions and the Australian cricket team are going that way.<br />
<br />
Lions tours have all that mystique about them. They also have a way of going horribly wrong, such as Australia 2001, when the tour party was split, the test team crumbled in the last 20 minutes of each match, and the players were trained into the ground.<br />
<br />
This Lions tour is giving me a bad feeling. I don’t know if it’s the way that each New Zealand side has given the lions a lesson in the breakdown, or if the players just aren’t at their best, but I can see a 3-0 test whitewash looming. Perhaps the biggest single reason is that the test team key combinations just haven’t had enough time on the pitch. That, and there are some real selection dilemmas. Right now, the best fly-half on tour has been Charlie Hodgson, but there is not a chance in hell he will start the first test. Most of the backs are misfiring. In the forwards, there are still concerns over who will start at prop, hooker and second row. And whoever is there needs to become a unit, and fast. The late call-up Ryan Jones just played a blinder against Otago, but will he even get into the test squad? I get the feeling that Woodward will pick more on experience than form, and that could be disastrous.<br />
<br />
The Australian cricket team at least know who their best players are. Sadly for them, they can’t even beat Bangladesh, who as I write just beat them by 5 wickets in an ODI. This is the worst start to a tour that any Australian will ever have experienced, and they play England tomorrow with a demoralised and tired squad. I almost feel sorry for them.<br />
<br />
Both the lions and Australia have time to turn it around. Australia will still go into the test series as favourites. The lions will not. They have a lot to put right in one week. New Zealand by 20 points (God I hope I am wrong).<br />

Sharapova-obsessed

Who? The English media? Well, they will be come Wimbledon, especially among the tabloids. You can hear the editors now. “Hmm, a leggy, pretty, blonde champion, you say? How many front page pics can we get of her in 2 weeks?”<br />
<br />
But until then, something more offbeat. <a href=”http://www.doubleagent.com/article.php?a=743”>How about a Sharapova pillow with nipples?</a> Step forward the Japanese, who take celebrity-worship to new levels of weirdness.<br />
<br />
<br />

Lions out of nowhere

It seems to be a feature of every lions tour that a random player not first-choice or even second-choice for their country emerges to claim a test spot. On this tour, there might well be a few. Here are three names to watch:<br />
<br />
Andrew Sheridan: The massive prop could get a test spot if he can boss the equally massive NZ Maori pack. Which would be unkind to the excellent Gethin Jenkins, but there you go. <br />
<br />
Simon Shaw: A last minute replacement for the unlucky O’Kelly, Shaw has the size and skill and the match tomorrow to impress Woodward. Last minute repacements have made the test team before – Corry did four years ago. Shaw needs to put his 2004 NZ red card behind him, so will be fired up. And apart from O’Connell, none of the other locks is really impressing that much.<br />
<br />
Andy Titterrell: I thought he did well against Taranake, and could yet play a part, especially if Steve Thompson has a throwing disaster. Neither Shane Byrne or Gordon Bulloch is a test cert.<br />
<br />
I know they are all English, but that’s because half the squad are.<br />
<br />
As for the tour, it’s shaping up to be a fantastic few weeks. Especially given my wide-screen TV and subscription to SkySports.

Roger goes down

So Rafael Nadal won the showdown – in four sets – and beat the best player in the world to go through to the French Open final. 2005 could turn into Roger Federer’s annus horrilbilis – win lots of titles on the tour, lose all the slams, which is a bit like Lendl in the early years. If he loses at Wimbledon…<br />
<br />
Is Nadal that good? Yes and no. Federer played worse as the match wore on, with his forehand breaking down and first serve going on holiday. Nadal kept his level up, but played better in previous matches. By the end, Federer looked angry and confused with his game. You could see him thinking “Ball – over there. NO! Not there. Damn, I’m better than this.”<br />
<br />
So will Nadal win the final? Probably, but as it’s his first time in a slam final (let alone semi) he might get stage-fright. I doubt it though. His opponent, the unseeded Puerta, is also in new territory, but could (and should) just go for broke. If he loses, no-one will be surprised. Nadal in four.

Older posts

© 2017 Rob Minto

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑