Monday, June 30, 2008

Big Monday at Wimbledon


No. 1 Roger Federer vs. No. 20 Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt is one of the top competitors out there and a guy who knows how to play on grass, winning the title six years ago. He's been bothered by a bad hip, however, and has lost the last 11 times against the five-time defending champion. Even worse for the Aussie, Federer appears to have put the French Open debacle behind him, not losing a set in three matches.

All 32 players left in the field will be in action on Monday but these are some of the matches to watch:

No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 17 Mikhail Youzhny
When they last met in January's Chennai Open final, Youzhny battered the world No. 2 6-0, 6-1 in under an hour. Keep in mind, though, that Nadal played a three-and-a-half hour epic against mentor Carlos Moya the day before.

Nadal had won their previous three battles, including one in five sets in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, rallying from a two-set hole. He is, by his own admission, an improved player and on a roll after winning his first career grass-court tournament at the Artois Championships.


No. 6 Serena Williams vs. Bethanie Mattek
Mattek got a little help in the third round when last year's finalist, Marion Bartoli, suffered a shoulder injury. The 23-year-old from Phoenix probably would have had a shot anyways, having entered Wimbledon with a 20-4 record in her last 24 matches, lower-level tourneys included. Let's be honest, though: Bartoli is one thing, Williams quite another. Williams survived a shaky first set versus Amelie Mauresmo in the third round and usually warms up in the second week, especially if Justine Henin isn't around.

No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
Kuznetsova suffered her usual early-round wobble, losing the first set against France's Mathilde Johansson in her opener. She's pulled it together in the last two, helping her forget about a woeful showing against Dinara Safina in the French Open semis. Radwanska, the clever Pole, is 14-1 in her last 15 matches and knows how to keep the ball in play, with a little gusto to boot. Ignore that she's 1-4 against Kuznetsova.

No. 7 Venus Williams vs. Alisa Kleybanova
Naomi Cavaday, Anne Keothavong and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Venus Williams set the Wimbledon women's record with a 127 mph serve in her third-round win on Saturday. Could defending champion Venus Williams have asked for an easier first three rounds? Kleybanova, 18, isn't a household name either, although the Russian -- one of many stalking the circuit -- has climbed more than 100 spots to 47th in the rankings since January and ousted Ai Sugiyama, no stranger to grass, in the third round. Like Serena, however, Venus Williams usually heats up when it counts, the grass inspiring her further.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Euro 2008 Reaches it’s Final Four

Many of the usual suspects will be absent from this year’s Euro 2008 final most of the pre-tournament favorites are home for the summer, including the side that looked the best in the group stage, Holland, winning all three matches and having the best goal differential of any team in the tournament. Ironically NONE of the sides that were group winners are left standing. The Dutch played their worst game of the four when it mattered most as Russia game out more aggressive and had them on their heels early, only a late goal from “Van the Man” extended the match to extra time where they once again could not keep the Russians out of their net. Also not present are the defending world champions Italy, who quite frankly, never looked like a team that would get out of the group stage and didn’t find their rhythm at all during the tournament. Another pre-tournament fav not present will be the French, as Henry is beginning to show his age Benzema has not lived up to the hype. The team with the most fire power up front and the consensus pick was Portugal, similar to 04’, but couldn’t manage to get Golden Boot winner Ronaldo enough space to score when it counted. With the dust settled and we look at who is left, under the radar Germany has slipped again. They find themselves with a semi-final match that is MORE than winnable, going up against a depleted Turkish side that will be missing a total of NINE normal starters due to injury or yellow card restrictions. The last big name left in the dance, they have found away to survive and advance and are in position to take down their fourth title. On the other side pits Russia and Spain, who seem to be finally living up to their potential. For many years the Spanish have fielded potentially the best squad but have not been able to put it all together and now they find themselves in a position that they have not seen since 1984. Their opponent is a quality Russian side that disposed of the top side in the tourney thus far, the Dutch. Perhaps they are just plain good, as they survived a group stage that easily could have been considered the ‘group of death’ with Sweden, Spain, and defending champions Greece. Last but not least we have not even brought up the sleeper of this years’ tournament, the Turks, who have defied all odds and found themselves short handed, injured, and facing an old nemesis, Deutschland. It they could pull off the monumental upset, and that is not hyperbole, it would truly go down in the archives as the biggest ever. However after the Greek run in 2004 I think the universe has already overdrawn their karma account. Either way there will be at least one unfamiliar face in the finals next week and probably the sentimental favorite.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Euro 2008 kicks off as favorites win openers

The Euro 2008 got under way today, with the Brits still pondering why they are not participating. In Group A action the co-host Switzerland were handed a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic at St Jakob-Park. Second-half substitute Vaclav Sverkos scored the only goal of the game in the 70th minute of an anti-climatic opener. Unbelievably it was the Czech’s ONLY shot on goal for the entire game! The first half was a tight affair, but it was Switzerland who created the best opportunity midway through the opening period as record scorer and captain Alexander Frei was denied by Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech from close range. However, that was to be Frei's last contribution as the striker limped off in tears on the stroke of half-time with a serious knee injury which could well have ended the Borussia Dortmund star's tournament. In addition to the injury what may be the talk of the day was the non call on the obvious hand ball in the second half. Under the replay it was totally blatant, and even at live speed it was about the same. How could such a big call be missed in a game with so much riding on it. The Swiss will have three days to ponder that very fact before they take the pitch again on Wed.

In the second match in group A Portugal opened their Euro 2008 account with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Turkey in Geneva. Cristiano Ronaldo - who hit the post with a sensational free-kick early on - inspired his side to victory as they scored two second half goals to kill of a Turkish threat which never materialized. After having a first-half effort disallowed, Pepe made no mistake on the hour as he gave Portugal the lead with a stunning individual effort. Nuno Gomes hit post and crossbar before the second goal arrived in stoppage time when substitute Raul Meireles finished off a fine counter-attack. Portugal now sit on top of Group A after Czech Republic's 1-0 win over Switzerland earlier on Saturday. With Deco, Ronaldo, and all of that speed in front, can Portugal hoist the cup for the second time in the last three tries?

Lewis Hamilton took advantage of a mistake by Kimi Raikkonen as the race got under way to take the number two spot, then when Felipe Massa needed to pit he took over the lead and never relinquished it. Leading by as much as 40 seconds during the race, which was marred by two stoppages, unpredictable rain, and cautions, Lewis proved his mettle again by taking home his first Monaco Grad Prix victory and a 3 point lead atop the F1 leaderboard. The afore mention Massa may be the sleeper pick this year but Hamilton may ride is wave of momentum all the way across the Atlantic and into Canada for another win next month.