Sunday, January 24, 2010

In only her second tournament back from a self-imposed retirement, Justine Henin has shown the tennis world what it has missed out on for the previous two and a half years.
With the current lack of depth in the women’s game, having Henin, and also Kim Clijsters, playing again has given the sport some much needed interest. For several years now, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, have for much of the time had things all their own way.
With the likes of Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis all gone from the game, results have become predictable with no viable contenders to the throne of the Williams sisters. Not anymore, it seems. Both Henin and Clijsters do not look to have missed a beat.
Henin looks to have come back a mentally tougher player. Her second round match against Elena Dementieva displayed what a class act she is. Clearly lacking match fitness, sucking in the big ones, she fought through the pain, and in the end, one had the feeling the Henin was always going to win. Not a bad effort after so long out of the game to have maintained some semblance of physical condition. Her fitness can only improve as she plays more and this looms as a major obstacle for her opposition.
Lesser mortals would have let themselves go out to pasture. Clearly Henin’s stomach hasn’t been over-indulging in its own perceived self-importance.
And she’s only going to get better, not just fitness wise, but also her game. Scary isn’t it? She is already holding her own with the best. Just think what she will do in twelve months time. That majestic backhand, considered by many to be the best in either of the men’s or women’s game, in all of its magnificence, was there for all to see. Henin is almost the all round package. Great groundstroke’s, volleys well, has the deft touches to pull off drop shots and is very tactically aware.
The only potential weakness to her game is the lack of a big serve. She produces a serve in the 170’s kph generally, whereas her opponents such as the Williams’s sisters and Samantha Stosur can all break the 200kph barrier with relative ease. Too counter this, she has to rely on top spin and slice serves. While these can be used to good effect, there is no substitute for absolute power.
She has been number one in the world in the past, so there is really no reason why she should be unable to regain this tag. Henin has commented since returning to the fray, that the time away from the game gave her a chance to discover herself. Extra time to do some much needed soul searching. Too work out what she wanted from life. And fortunately for fans of hers and tennis lovers in general, playing tennis, it seems, is what she wishes to do for now.
She has said the decision to return to the game was solely her’s. She didn’t discuss the issue with anybody else. Too often in sport these days, competitors have a myriad of coaches, physios and an assortment of hangers-on following them around making decisions for them. That Henin is prepared to make her own decisions and take responsibility for them seems to be a step in the right direction. A new found maturity for the twenty-seven year old, then.
Several years ago in the 2006 Australian Open final, she retired with a stomach virus. That she was losing comprehensively at the time led some to believe that she had taken to the easy option of retiring hurt. And Henin has said that she now regrets withdrawing from the match. It is quite likely now that if she had the same stomach problems now, she would be more inclined to fight her way through the pain, win or lose.
With a older, wiser outlook on life, this then, spells trouble for her rivals, which must surely be looking over their shoulders for the fast approaching Belgium wonder.

* * *

Seventeen year-old Bernard Tomic has complained after his five set loss at the Australian Open that starting a match at 10pm and finishing at 2am is too much for someone of his age to handle. Pleaseeeeee. Spare us all this drivel. To paraphrase John McEnroe "You can not be serious!” Come on, if you want to play with the big boys in the professional arena then you will have to put up with the same conditions as them.
You are the first seventeen year old that I have ever heard of complain that he has to be out at 2am instead of at home in bed. But if that is where you would rather be, then that’s fine. I guess you aren’t interested in the copious amounts of prize money that you stand to win by competing as a professional.
Get real, fella. You have to take the bad with the good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Recently a protester was sent for a hike down a long narrow never ending road. Now, it has come to my attention that there is a need for someone else to join this protester. A tennis player, perhaps. For example, Serena Williams.
Having just watched her Australian Open first round match against Urszula Radwanska, I propose that the younger of the Williams sisters would be an absolutely worthy recipient of this wonderful opportunity.
In her 6-2, 6-1 victory over Radwanska, I counted two hundred and fourteen grunts on her part. That’s right; two hundred and fourteen. Now don’t get me wrong Serena, you are a supremely talented lady, not to mention exceedingly attractive to boot. Although, with all those bandages you had on today, you did a rather fine impersonation of an Egyptian mummy. Walk, talk and grunt like an Egyptian.
One would hate to think what it is going to be like once you get into the second week of the Open, where presumably the matches will be longer due to the higher quality of opponent, hence, longer rallies. To think that you possibly could triple today’s tally, well it is stomach churning to say the least. And this doesn’t take into account that you may have an opponent that grunts as well. Your combined tally threatens to truly stun.
You and your big sister, Venus, have taken women’s tennis to new heights. You’re so good that you were partly responsible for the premature demise of the magnificent Swiss miss, Martina Hingis. She had a great tennis mind as well as sublime shot making. But you had all that plus the one ingredient that really frightens opponents: power.
In particular, you Serena have shone brightly, even outshining Venus. Venus shines in the early mornings and evenings, but you shine vividly all around the clock. But come on, what’s with the excessive grunting? An easy victory like this and you had this uncontrollable urge to grunt two hundred and fourteen times. Clearly you are a tremendously powerful lady that has been laden with mighty strength that allows you to grind your foes into the ground. But surely with your fitness levels and weight training you must be able to hit the ball without this almost obsessive compulsive need to grunt. I personally would rather climb Mt Everest naked, than be subjected to listening to this torture ever again.
In one game you managed to grunt fifty-five times. Today you averaged fourteen grunts per game. A mighty effort, Serena. Perhaps you could do us all a favour and aim for ten per game in your next match. Just think of it as a challenge. Challenge challenged Serena and Serena challenged challenge. Challenge, unfortunately, will most likely win.
What is peculiar is that in the preceding match to yours, Australian Samantha Stosur won a hard fought three setter. And get this: she didn’t grunt once. This is the woman who owns the biggest serve in women’s tennis. A lady that regardless of whether she wins or loses, makes tennis a pleasure to watch. The worst thing about this, other than the fact that you do not seem to have the capacity to emulate this effort, is that being a New Zealander, I have just done something that really does not bear thinking about too much; complimenting an Australian.
Now you may not be too pleased with these criticisms, and I beg you, do not jam a tennis ball down my throat. I am aware that you are well capable of achieving such a feat. I'm sure I'm not the first that you have been oh so tempted to try this on. Maybe a lineswoman or two, as well.
By the bye,we have an ex-politician here in New Zealand that in a past life masqueraded as a teacher. He allegedly liked to put a tennis ball down students’ mouths as a punishment. A possible pen pal for you Serena?
Perhaps you should consider shoving the ball down your own throat. It would surely save us from listening to this plethora of grunting that would do one of those laugh tracks from an America sitcom proud. You know the ones? Yep, where they sound like they are having a mass orgasm. That’s what you sound like on court Serena. The noise is unbearable.
For silence challenged Serena and Serena challenged silence. Serena won.
Tennis officials must be terrified of your like, for they continually fail to address this abhorrent sideline entertainment you and your fellow pros so ably dabble in. Sure you are a star, but possibly the threat of a ban from a grand slam tournament may put a halt to this most undesirable of practices. And it is not as if you cannot stop grunting. For it was very noticeable that there were points where you were hitting the ball with ferocious force, and yet you felt no need to exhale an almighty grunt. Not even a squeak. This leads the keen observer to believe that the good majority of the time there is no need to attack the spectators’ sense of hearing.
For those two hundred and fourteen atrocities that you have committed, the long narrow never ending road challenges you. And Serena Williams, please step up and challenge the long narrow never ending road.
And do what you are so good at: win.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Carney lights up New Year's celebrations

Former Canberra Raider, Todd Carney, is doing his utmost to torch his football career.
Having set fire to a friend’s pants causing burns to the buttocks,it seems he is intent on destroying the second chance that has been afforded to him by the Sydney City Roosters.
Having been deregistered by the NRL for the 2009 season, he was thrown a lifeline by the Roosters for this coming season. Yet despite this, he is already in the dog house.
Carney, bizarrely, has claimed that there was no malice intended in setting his friend’s pants alight. If this is what he does to a friend, one would hate to think what he may consider appropriate to do to an enemy. New Rooster’s coach, Brian Smith, may want to be careful about dropping Carney at any stage of the upcoming season as Carney may be tempted to set him on fire.
Having already been sacked by the Raiders, to most intelligent thinking people, it would appear imperative for Carney’s footballing future that he remains incident free. Common sense and Carney, however, do not seem to be mutual companions. This lack of grey matter may be the reason that he seems not to grasp that when already under intense scrutiny due to previous misdemeanours, another indiscretion could cost him his career; permanently
Bizarre then that he chooses to continue on with his wild ways, just as the Roosters have hired Brian Smith as head coach. Not only is Smith a top class coach but he is also a known disciplinarian. So, not one of Carney’s smartest thought processes, one would have thought. And the season is still two months away from starting. Just imagine the havoc he could create in that time. What a great way to make an impression on the coach, eh.
One suspects that Carney just does not get it. That he simply does not grasp the gravity of his situation. Having already been deregistered once by the NRL, one more serious incident and he could well be gone from the game long term. And with that a chance to set himself up financially for life after football. At the age of twenty-three he still has that opportunity. With his undoubted talent, he could march on along his footballing field of dreams and turn these into a mighty reality.And in turn, some serious coin if he can harness his tremendous potential. Match winning halfbacks are a rare breed indeed and every club desires one of them. Carney could be one of those rarities in today’s game; a true halfback, not a manufactured one as seems to be the modern trend these days.
Carney appears to be a footballer with far too much spare time on his hands. Someone that would benefit immensely from procuring a part-time job outside of his training and playing duties, to keep himself busy and out of harm’s way. Something that will teach him what the real world is about. Not the narrow view of life he so blatantly has currently. One where he imagines that he has carte blanche to run riot believing that because he is a star player, above the ways of the common people that do not have his footballing gifts, he can get away with anything he chooses.
As I mentioned earlier, Brian Smith is a noted disciplinarian. A serious type who surely would not approve of Carney’s immature ways. They appear to be two totally different personalities that are, more than likely, not on the same wave length. This means there is a strong possibility of coach and star player clashing; and sooner rather than later. Smith has already let Willie Mason go from the club. No doubt there will be more casualties over the next twelve months as Smith will want to stamp his mark on the club.
With this in mind, how long until Carney is shown the door?
With his penchant for bizarre acts of random madness, possibly not too long at all.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Have you ever wished that someone terribly annoying (yes yes, I know) would take a hike down a long narrow never-ending road, and not turn back? There are endless candidates that could find themselves the lucky recipient of this dubious honour. And that’s just in the world of sport. This week, for example, we had the perfect bunch to take out this magnificent opportunity. None other than John Minto and his fellow protesters who decided to park themselves outside the ASB arena in Auckland, where Israeli tennis player, Shahar Peer, was competing.
These caring souls, having decided that Israel is mistreating Palestine citizens, thought that the world should be made aware of what they perceived to be crimes against humanity. Apparently Minto and his cohorts have found a way to portion all of the blame for this on Peer. Yep, not only is she responsible for the Palestinians not having their own state, one presumes that if she is solely the cause of this, she is more than likely the evil doer behind the hole in the ozone layer, world poverty and more than likely the twin towers collapsing. How she finds time to train for and compete in tournaments, what with all these other sins she is clearly the perpetrator of, is beyond me. Quite the rap sheet really.
I stand to be corrected on this, but I have this sneaking suspicion that Peer was in Auckland competing as an individual. Not, as the protesters have conveniently forgotten, for her country. This was not a teams event where one represents a country or even a company. Her country’s government did not instruct her to play. She made that decision for herself.Presumably, unless it is the federation cup where she is representing her country, the rest of her time is spent travelling the globe competing as an individual. Meaning she does not speak on behalf of the Israeli government's policies. Peer can hardly be blamed for being born in a certain country; it’s not as if she had any say in the matter. A powerful forehand she may have, but I severely doubt she has any say in her country of births foreign policy. Or any policy for that matter.
One may have had some sympathy for them if they were attacking a country's policies, but to take it out on an innocent individual is where they have taken have got it so wrong. The protesters could just as easily have parked themselves outside the Israeli embassy, made their point and still get all the publicity their little heart’s desire. And the right people will be more likely to get the message. Not innocents such Shahar Peer.
Sad then that these nutjobs, that clearly are in need of developing a hobby or even better getting a job, have felt the need to do their utmost to ruin the enjoyment of many of the fans, as well as making life harder for innocent players. It seems they will go to any length to get their point across.
There was the bizarre case of one protester being arrested up a tree. Perhaps if the offender had fallen off the tree, it may have knocked some sense into him. Here's hoping anyway. The fans that paid good money to watch the tennis had the right to expect to do so in peace and relative quiet(apart from the odd grunt, of course). Not harassed by what are more than likely a gathering of professional whingers. There were numerous arrests made by police during the weeklong event and Minto was slapped with a trespass order denying him the chance to go with five hundred metres of the stadium. But don’t worry Johnny boy, there will be no trespass notice to stop you and your like from taking on that long narrow never-ending road.
That Peer managed to find her way through to the semi-finals speaks volumes for her mental toughness. To block out the constant noise and abuse from the protesters was a mighty effort. In fact it was some of her opponents that were complaining about the distractions, not Peer.
Politics and sport, in an ideal world should not mix. The world however is clearly not perfect as it seems to have inhabitants that take it on themselves to police the planet. Whether they be right or wrong, the likes of Minto and his merry band of minority supporters will always feel the need to force their beliefs on the rest of the population
That being the case, please Johnny boy, step up to the mark, do New Zealand a favour and start that hike along the long narrow never-ending road that now confronts you.
Oh, by the way, don’t turn back.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Just a quick thought on the continuing saga that is Tiger Woods life. Now, it is said that he is currently having an indefinite break from golf. But is he really? You see, allowing that par for a course is 70, and going on the latest reports which claim he is up to mistress number sixteen, the important issue here, clearly, is will he end up under or over par. Personally, I'm picking he goes over-par and scores seventy-eight mistresses.