Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Twenty20 is the game of the devil.
Well, so I thought, for numerous reasons. But more of that later.
Having watched Australian, David Warner, take apart the West Indian bowling attack in Australia’s eight wicket victory last night, I may yet become a convert. It is very hard not to become enthused when struck with the sight of Warner’s sublime batting display. That he scored 67 was incidental. It was more the way he smashed seven sixes in his mighty effort. And he went at it right from the first ball. Who needs a sighter at the beginning of an innings when you can partake in blasting the ball over the boundary rope for six instead? Not David Warner, that’s to be sure.
This is a man that seems to find opposition bowlers to be a breed of disgusting, deplorable, disgraceful, despicable philistine hillbilly nutjobs that he deems to be the lowest forms of human waste that civilisation has to offer. And then he proceeds to treat them as such, with such stupendous displays of batting prowess that have rarely been seen in cricket. This is good for him, but not so good for the bowler. Unless, that is, the bowler likes this kind of disrespect shown to all his hard toil.
If you are looking for the ideal batter for a twenty20 game, David Warner is that person. For, he seems to bat without fear, not feeling the need to consider the implications of his shock and awe approach, if it doesn’t hit the desired note. At the tender age of twenty, though, I guess he feels like he is bullet proof.
What is even more remarkable about Warner is that he has only played one first class match. In most other cricketing nations he would stroll into virtually any first class side, but not in New South Wales where he is stranded behind test match openers. He need not worry too much about this though, as in this day and age it is possible to make large quantities of coin competing in professional twenty20 competitions such as the IPL.
And for those that say Warner is only an attacking player and not suited to other versions of the game: come on, surely with the right application, he could temper his attacking instincts a little, therefore making him suitable for the one day game and possibly even the longer form of the game. A batsman of the ilk of Warner could potentially change the way first class (and maybe even tests) cricket is played if he does adjust. Some, for whatever reason, can’t though.
Which leads us on to the devilish side of twenty20 and its impact on the longer versions of the game. There are those that believe that twenty20 is having a damaging effect on the techniques of batsmen, as well as their ability to concentrate for long periods of time, hence, leaving batsmen struggling to handle the longer forms of the game. This is especially so in the smaller cricketing nations such as New Zealand, that does not have the depth of talent that the likes of Australia, South Africa and India have.
Whereas in Australia, they can have players specialising in one form of the game, here, our top players are needed, for the most part, in all three versions of the game. Being forced to slog at the cost of technique cannot be good for their preparation for one dayers, and in particular, test matches. Not only this, but, they also claim that the bowlers getting smashed around the park at will is not doing the bowlers confidence any good.
So then, perhaps the age of specialisation is just about upon the cricketing world. This would be fine, except for the fact that the players love the game of twenty20. Not so much because they rate the game highly, but more for the fact that they can earn up to one million dollars for not much more than six weeks work at a time. Some will say that the national body should put its foot down and insist that the top players put their national team first. This, of course, is a mighty fine sentiment on their part.
The problem that organisations like New Zealand Cricket have with enforcing this type of policy is that the players, once their contracts end, can simply choose not to re-sign with the national body. Therefore, leaving them open to offering their services out to the highest bidder. Not only is the age of specialisation nearly here, but so too, it seems, of the freelancer in cricket. And who really could blame them?
As much as we would all prefer to see them jumping out of their skins to play test cricket, they can hardly be blamed for being tempted by copious amounts of dollar signs flashing before their eyes. After all, they do have families to feed, not to mention the appeal of setting themselves up financially for life once they retire from the game.
Already we have seen the likes of Shane Bond and Jacob Oram retire from test match cricket to concentrate on the twenty20 arena. Partly this is because of injuries they have suffered playing test match cricket. Though there is a nagging suspicion that it has become all too easy to give away the toil of test cricket when there is the obvious attraction of making mega bucks without having to put too much effort in. This is especially so for the bowlers.
In the end it comes back to what will get the public through the turn- styles. Not surprisingly, twenty20 seems to be that game, particularly for the younger audience. This is not hard to comprehend when the average attention span these days would struggle to last forty overs, let alone the one hundred overs of a one day match. With so much else available for them to spend their time and money on, officials have little choice but to cater to their wishes.
So Twenty20 is here to stay, it seems. And if David Warner is going to create absolute mayhem and havoc as he did last night at the SCG, those traditionalists amongst us, may even be tempted to continue tuning in.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

After three months of self-imposed exile, it seems that Tiger Woods is going to make his first public appearance tommorrow, to apologise for his numerous misdemeanours (sixteen at last count).
Please, spare us this entire contrived spectacle. Surely, if the man was genuinely sorry for what he has done to his wife and family, as well as deceiving the public, he would have apologised initially when his indiscretions first came to light. Personally, there is more chance that I would happily volunteer to eat a meal consisting solely of asparagus, cauliflower and broccoli, laced with a liberal sprinkling of cucumber, than there is of believing Woods is sorry for what he has done. If it had only been one time, we all may have been tempted to believe him, but when he has slept with sixteen different women?
Why bother with an apology this long after the event unless he plans to manipulate the public for his own gain? Which kind of sounds all too familiar doesn’t it? And the fact that he will be making a prepared statement and not taking any questions from the media only adds to the perception that he is on a mission to spread propaganda to suit his own selfish desires.
Looking after his own needs over the needs of others is something that he seems to specialise in. Most have now come to see through the facade that is Tiger Woods clean cut family man image, realising now that he has all the moral fibre of a bull in search of heat. No one is going to believe that Woods is what he has portrayed himself as, again. So why not just get on with doing what he does best, which, of course, is playing golf.
And that will help him immensely as he is known to be driven by not only winning majors, but also by the desire for untold riches. This is the man that is worth a billion dollars, yet, still feels that he is not in a financially sound position. And getting the public back on side would be a mighty fine way to attract sponsors to once again back him. By apologising, he clearly thinks that he will enhance his prospects of making that second billion. Which he will need if he transgresses again. For you can be sure that his Swedish wife will not hang around a second time. It seems that she has this time, more for her children’s benefit than for a love of Woods.
Incidentally, I wonder if Woods could let us all know what it is like to be owned by a hot blond Swedish chick. Because, whether he likes it or not, that is what it will amount to for Woods from here on in. All of the public sympathy is on her side. Another transgression on the part of Woods would finish him off in that often brutal arena that is the public court of opinion. And if he steps over the mark, she is going to walk away with a lot more than the twenty million she was to get as part of their pre-nuptial agreement. So then, it seems that Tiger will be on a very short leash from now onwards. One wonders, what with the obvious urges that he suffers from, whether he would have been better off being single. This may not have put him in a strong position to capitalise on potential financial gains, but even if he had lost half his fortune in divorce proceedings, he would easily have made this again, once he gets back onto the course.
That is if he can handle the pressure of all those eyes watching him and the verbal abuse he may suffer from the crowd. His first tee shot back in the game is going to be one of the most eagerly awaited moments sport-not just golf- has seen in a long time. In the past he has always had an edge on his opposition when it comes to the mental toughness stakes. But this is a totally different kettle of fish. Never before has he had to deal with a hostile crowd. A crowd that, more than likely is going to be baying for his blood, knowing that he has duped them in the past.
For mine, I believe he will struggle over the first few holes, but gradually get control of the nerves that are sure to be there. And his caddy, New Zealander Steve Williams, is going to be crucial as to whether Wood’s does make it through that first round intact mentally. Williams is just the kind of hard minded professional that will be able to keep Woods calm if he does encounter a less than friendly reception from the crowd. Not to mention his fellow pros. They will certainly be on the lookout for any sign of weakness on Woods part. He was in the past considered off limits, in part due to the amount of extra money his presence brought to the game, but now that the sponsorship has partially dissipated, he will no longer be put on a pedestal.
This is even more of a reason for Woods to put this public relations exercise to one side and get on with what he does best: winning golf tournaments.
Only then will normal transmission continue.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

With the NRL season only a few weeks away and the New Zealand Warrior's having started their warm-up matches, I have decided to reminisce on some of the more memorable moments in the Warrior's history.

Year two of Daniel Anderson’s coaching rein and the Warriors make the 2002 grand final against the Sydney City Roosters. Down 8-2 early in the match, things were looking decidedly average for the first time grand finalists. Until, that is, Stacey Jones came to the rescue with one of the all-time great grand final tries. Play had broken down on the Rooster’s thirty metre line. The ball somehow managed to get to Jones who then proceeded to run diagonally to his right for fifteen metres. Finding no space to his liking in this particular part of the ground, he then took a rather acute turn to the left and headed off again on the diagonal and through the good majority of the Roosters team to score, showing just how great he was. With the conversion, the score was back to 8-all. Though the score remained the same for the next twenty minutes the Warriors started to gain the ascendancy. That is until Richard Villisanti’s infamous head butt on Rooster’s captain, Brad Fittler. Fittler fired up and the Rooster’s strolled away to a thirty points to eight victory. Still, Jones left his mark on the game with a try that will be remembered for many years to come.

Midway through the 2008 season, Warriors fans were just getting used to the notion that their team would not be playing finals football. For their team was in thirteenth position on the NRL ladder. Something sound familiar? A similar position to 2007 at the same stage of the season and like 2007, Ivan Cleary’s men jump-started their staggering, spluttering season by going on a prolonged run of vibrant form. In the end they sneaked into the finals football in eighth position and a first weekend away game against defending champions the Melbourne Storm. In the history of the McIntyre system number eight had never beaten number one. Despite a tight match, with two minutes remaining on the clock Melbourne were up 15-12 and had looked to have done enough to get week two of the finals series off. However, Jerome Ropati and a few close acquaintances had other ideas. Desperate to seal a last minute win, The Warriors backline sprung into action when Ropati busted the Storm’s right-side defence and off-loaded to the Manu “the beast” Vatuvei, who thundered his way along the grassy expanses of Olympic stadium. Having encountered a few undesirables in the form of the Storm’s defensive unit, he passed inside to Michael Witt who scampered over to score in the left corner. Though, not before giving Cleary and his teammates heart palpitations by raising the ball in the air before forcing it for the try that sealed an upset victory.

In 2001 the Warriors came under new management, which also brought in a new coach in Daniel Anderson. The team’s fortunes changed for the better right from the beginning. But the defining moment came against the Canterbury Bulldogs. Bulldog’s forward, Steve Reardon decided to open a can of whoopass on Monty Betham and Betham whooped his ass. *Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, please, if you will,letsssss get ready to rumbleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Steve-what the hell was I thinking-Reardon throws a right hook and connects with Betham. Monty-I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life-Betham throws a right hook, Monty throws a left hook, Monty throws a right hook, Monty throws another right hook, Monty wins. The Warriors had always been considered to have a soft underbelly but from here on in that all changed. The Warriors forward pack became well respected. Oh yes, feared as well.

* Part of this sentence was taken from Michael Buffer, a boxing ring announcer.

2001 was a year that had numerous firsts for the New Zealand Warriors. Perhaps the most important was their first ever visit to the stunning scenery that is finals football. Though, it was a close run thing in the end. Going into the final round of the regular season, they needed to beat or at the very least draw with the Melbourne Storm. Up 20-4 at the half-time break, it looked to be a foregone conclusion that they would be celebrating making history by the night’s end, but the Storm had other ideas. While the Warrior’s did add one more try to their tally the storm was closing in on them. With only minutes remaining and the Warriors up 24-20 the Melbourne grabbed a last minute try to tie the score. The fate of their season (As well as a $150 bet at 7/1 on my part for the Warriors to make the top eight) was to be decided by a sideline conversion. Matt Geyer missed the conversion and the players as well as the Warriors long suffering fans were rewarded with a first ever finals appearance.

Another first happened in 2001 for the Warriors. The Warriors decided to do the unthinkable...beat Brisbane. And this they did 13-12 in round six. A victory achieved on the back of one of the finest defensive efforts seen in the club’s history. That Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett felt moved to go to the Warriors changing rooms after the match and congratulate the opposition- something he very rarely does- speaks volumes.
Brisbane battered the Warriors goal line for close to ten minutes, but could not find a way through. In part this was due to Kevin Campion who was pushed by Shane Webcke in the play the ball area. Campion responded with a flurry of punches that Webcke could not respond to. Not only that, but Webcke was penalised for starting the incident. The Warriors kicked for touch and then manoeuvred their way out of trouble, holding on for a one point victory. Campion had given his team some much needed mental energy in what was a very clever play on his part.
This started a run of seven from eight wins against Brisbane. Amazing what a little self-belief can do for a team.

More from the 2001 file and this one’s a beauty. Playing the Canterbury Bulldogs at the cake tin in Wellington (the Bulldog’s home game),the Warriors had played seventy-four minutes of football distinguishable more for its ineptitude than for any memorable attacking fare. Skillful attacking fortitude had been nowhere in sight but now here is a true story of some marvellous attacking flair. Down 24-8, the Wellington crowd, at this stage, more than likely did not care. But only go home early if you dare. For a revival of mighty proportions was near. That revival came in the form of three tries, two of which were converted. Stacey Jones lined up the conversion for the final try twenty metres in from the sideline. A relatively straightforward kick, but the pressure mounted and he missed the kick leaving the scores tied at 24-24.
Who would have thought that six minutes of football could be worth the price of admission alone.

The hype leading up to the first ever match of the Auckland Warriors was extreme, to say the least. Unlike a lot of occasions of this magnitude when there is so much promised and very little delivered, the match against Brisbane was every bit as good as the hype had suggested it would be. First though, there was the prematch entertainment which consisted of mock soldiers in camouflage darting all over the ground in amongst heavily manipulated smoke. Unfortunately for the Warriors though, they could not quite get the killer blow in and went down fighting 25-22, thanks mainly to the individual brilliance of Alan “alfie” Langer.

In 2003 Warriors fans were once again rewarded for the third year in a row with their team reaching finals football. Up against the Canterbury Bulldogs of Sydney, the Warriors flew west to the Sydney showground and then took great delight in dismantling the Bulldogs 48-22. Francis Meli set a finals record by scoring five tries. He was surely a very happy boy as he flew back east. Not so the Bulldogs though, for they had dominated the first third of the match (including a ten minute period where the Warriors had a man in the sin bin) having had an eight point lead. In the end though the Warriors were too big, strong and fast for their opposition, showing just what they were capable of doing to the best of opponents on their day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oh how the mighty fall. Former All Black lock, Robin Brooke, has finally come out and admitted that he did indeed grope a fifteen year old Auckland girl at a Fiji holiday resort. That Brooke has taken a month to accept responsibility only serves to cast him in an even dimmer light than he was already seen. It can only be assumed that this delay in admitting guilt was designed to allow Brooke time to negotiate a settlement in exchange for the complaint to police being dropped. No criminal conviction- good for Brooke. Not a particularly good look though overall. It only accentuates the appearance of looking after what is best for his interests and not genuinely caring about the impact of his actions on the teenage girl.
And what of the fifteen year old girl? Brooke has said that there are no winners in this situation. This is obviously true. It’s just that Brooke will be able to move on reasonably quickly from this. The girl, however, may not. She will have to live with the memories of what was done to her for the rest of her life. Oh sure, Brooke has apologised, but only because he was forced to under the terms of the settlement. But does he really mean it? It is all very easy to offer a public apology, take your medicine briefly and then get on with your life. All the while the victim is still suffering. She will be wondering why her and what did she do to deserve Brooke’s unwanted attentions. By all accounts she had not provoked Brooke in any way whatsoever. She was simply going about her business, enjoying herself, only to have her life changed forever.
What makes this case even more sinister is that when a young Australian lad, Jordan Whittaker, came to the girl’s aide Brooke grabbed him by the throat and threw him backwards into a chair. Brooke didn’t stop to think that he might actually be in the wrong. If he had of stopped there and offered an apology then he may not have found himself in the predicament that he is now in. Extremely manly stuff on the part of Brooke, of course. I mean why, shouldn’t a 6ft 5in, 100 kilo man deal to a seventeen year old boy. He’s a former All Black, he’s big and tough, and he can do what he wishes. Cant he?
It appears not to have occurred to Brooke that as a former All Black he holds a privileged position in society. In New Zealand, rugby being our national sport, anyone having played in the black jersey holds special status and is revered. With that, whether it is right or wrong comes responsibility. The responsibility to lead by example, to live within the boundaries of the law. You know, all that common sense kind of stuff. Which one would have thought included respecting the limits of other people no matter what sex or age they are.
These responsibilities- a rather quaint notion to Brooke, I know - might also include not getting drunk and claiming not to remember the events of that particular evening. How many times do we all have to listen to a sports star (or anyone else for that matter), who having committed a act of idiocy blather on about how they cannot remember what has happened because they had been drinking. Please, spare us all. How convenient that Brooke just happens to have suffered memory loss about such a crucial matter. It’s as if he and many others think that if they claim to have no memory of the event, that this somehow makes them less culpable for their actions. Once again, spare us.
This convenient memory loss syndrome is not a new phenomenon either. Just last year, Manly rugby league star, Brett Stewart, was charged with sexually assaulting a young lady. Naturally enough Stewart claimed at the time to have no memory of the incident because he was drunk. You see, like in Brooke’s case, it was all the alcohol’s fault. Brooke clearly did not want to drink the alcohol. This, it seems, upset the alcohol so it forced itself down Brooke’s throat against his will. So really the alcohol should be apologising to not just Brooke, but also the teenage girl and Whittaker.
That alcohol can be the perpetrator of so many crimes is just mind-blowingly incomprehensible. Naturally enough, we the human race are faultless and beyond accusations of any wrong-doing. So then, it must be the alcohol that is evil. Which means that despite his suspected Claytons apology, Brooke will be able convince himself in the future that he is not a bad person and certainly not the kind to harass defenceless teenagers that are only half the size of him.
There will be those that come out and defend him, no doubt, and claim that he deserves a second chance. Most people do and Brooke, one suspects, will eventually be afforded that chance. Those defending him will claim that he’s not really like that. Especially former team mates. We played with him for ten years and his behaviour was impeccable, they will say. And he may well have a clean conscience as far as the past goes. But, if anything has occurred before, it tends to be a case of what happens on tour stays on tour. No one wants to be seen to be having a go at team mates, even if it is from some time ago. And as Brooke has just showed, do we really know anyone as well as we think we do?
Mark Twain once commented that “every man is a moon, with a dark side he doesn’t show anybody”.
It seems that Brooke’s dark side has had some light shed upon it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi has bitten off more than he could chew.
Though he obviously didn’t count on being caught on camera doing his wicked deed. And quite right of him to expect to get away with biting a cricket ball - to hopefully procure copious amounts of extra swing in the middle of a cricket ground watched by thousands, not to mention the match being televised live - instead of been given a two match ban, which he got. After all, who would think to actually watch the game, let alone the player who has the ball in his hand? Hell, I’m just glad that he didn’t make it too obvious. You never know, he might have got caught.
This act of beguilement is hard to comprehend, that’s to be sure. This was nothing more than a blatant act of cheating, a total disregard for the rules of cricket. Afridi did not even bother to try and hide what he was doing. He surely could not have thought that he was going to get away with such an obvious act of treachery. And this coming from the captain, no less. Presumably Afridi was chosen for the role of captain due to a combination of having the respect of the players and the tactical nous to do the job, amongst other things. Which one would have thought, for the second reason at least, requires a reasonable level of intellect. This being the case, you have to wonder if he is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
You see, the thing about sport is that it is a competition to see who is the best team, player. And because we all want to see a fair contest, someone once upon a time came up with the rather novel notion of creating rules, so that each side had an even chance and had to use a degree of skill to claim a victory. But why make it fair when you can cheat to win. It is so much easier that way. Remember, too, that it isn’t cheating, simply extending the rules somewhat.
Clearly Afridi feels this way about the whole situation. What’s the big deal, he is wondering. As he claimed, everybody in the game is doing it. Oh well, then that’s okay I guess. How stupid, that the rest of us did not realise that two wrongs make a right. Seriously, all these years we have been wasting our time actually being far too rigid with our lives by tediously sticking to the rules.
Which means that the match referee is obviously off his rocker and being a tad over-zealous in handing out a two match ban to Afridi. Quite why the officials would want to hand out a ban to Afridi, I don’t know. Oh that’s right; it will create a level playing field as well as sending a message to all in the game that ball tampering will not be tolerated.
Why the ICC does not come down on this dubious practice harder than they do is a mystery to most followers of the game. Especially when it is the captain of the team. Someone that is a leader and that should have known better. What’s even worse in this case is that Afridi has had numerous run-ins with ICC disciplinary committees. But this is the ICC. A mob that would struggle to run a booze up in a brewery.
A classic example of their ineptitude was at the 2007 world cup where the final turned into utter chaos. And then there was the absurd prices charged to get into matches. Hey, wouldn’t want the locals to actually attend matches would you. Understandably, they thought it much better that the punters take an interest in any sport other than cricket.
You can’t put this down to the Indian influence on the ICC either, because they are sworn enemies of Pakistan. Therefore, it must be a case of giving the issue lip service due to the fact that they are either a toothless organisation or one that just plain doesn’t care.
This, of course, is great for Afridi, who gets away with having the scruples of a zombie. Oh sure, he is banned for two matches. Of what? Twenty-twenty.Afridi will of course laugh off such a small ban. To be out of action for two matches when there is a plethora of the shortened version of the game to keep the bank balance healthy each season is hardly going to concern him.
It seems, then, that nothing much would concern Afridi. Especially not the rules of cricket.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Joy to the tennis world. The Australian Open final's weekend has come and gone for another year and what a sizzling array of talent on display. Two singles finals and gripping tennis was seen in both. We saw Roger Federer, the greatest of all time, reinforce his standing as number one in the world. And in Andy Murray, the heir apparent to Federer, display admirable mental fortitude despite losing, and show that he is the best of the rest.
Then in the Women’s final, Serena Williams showed us all that she is clearly the best in the world. Although that did not stop Justine Henin from giving Williams a good run for her money. Henin, the little Belgium pocket battleship with the heavily armed backhand never gave in, despite running into a fully loaded enemy destroyer going by the name of Serena Williams. And in the end Williams had too much firepower for her. Not to mention match fitness under pressure. Henin, in only her second tournament after coming out of retirement found that her technique could not hold up under the intense scrutiny of William’s onslaught.
Henin, however, did show enough to suggest that once some of that rustiness dissipates, she could close the gap on William’s and start up an enduring rivalry between the two. With these two in full flight, future match ups will be a sight to behold. Henin showed her potential to improve with some scintillating shot making at the end of the second set and beginning of the third. Unfortunately, having won fourteen consecutive points, she went off the boil.
That William’s was able to withstand this onslaught and then invert the pressure back onto Henin, speaks volumes for her greatness as a tennis player. Lesser players would have withered up and crumpled under the pressure. Not William’s though. True champions withstand it. They take the heat and then torch the opposition. Which William’s duly did. In the end Henin had no answer to the power of Serena.
It has been well documented that Henin is aiming for glory at Wimbledon, and has been changing parts of her game, her serve and forehand mostly, to give her every chance of success there. No surprise then that her technique did not hold up terribly well at times in the final. However, with another five months to hone that technique, it will no doubt click into place. Then beware anyone that gets in her way.
Overall the depth of Women’s tennis may have improved from ten through to number fifty in the rankings, but realistically there are only four, maybe five players capable of winning the slams right now. And with the exception of Venus Williams who nearly always manages to shine on grass, it is hard to see anyone other than the two sisters and Henin competing in the majority of grand slam finals this year.
While you could not put either of Williams or Henin in the category of genius, you certainly couldn’t find any better adjective to describe the truly great Rodger Federer. For genius seems to come naturally to the man. Two years ago, everyone was writing him off, wittering on that he was past his best, and that young guns such as Murray, Rafael Nadal, Juan Martine Del Potro and Andy Roddick were catching up and about to overtake him. Now they must all be wondering just how to beat Federer. There is daylight between him and the world number two. This just happens to be Andy Murray, his finals opponent in Melbourne. That he disposed of Murray in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 was remarkable. In as much as Murray did not play badly. Federer simply gave him very little to work with.
Murray pushed hard in the back end of the third set, and fought a good fight, but, he simply did not have the class to really extend Federer. And to be fair to him, no one at the moment could hope to get near the great man. Federer is very close to the apex of the mountain. The best of the rest are still only two-thirds of the way up. Only Nadal has been able to match Federer, although he is now beginning to succumb to injury. It may be that for Murray and the rest of the chasing pack, to catch the fed express, the fed will have to come back to the pack, not them climbing to his level.
Federer has done just about everything in the game in his illustrious career. He now has sixteen grand slam titles to his name, which is two more than the previous mark set by Pete Sampras, made more money than he could possibly know what to do with and is closing in on the most number of weeks at number one in the rankings. The only thing left is to complete the grand slam in a calendar year.
If he can negotiate the clay courts of the Roland Garros, which he is not naturally suited too, then it appears that the grand slam is well within his grasp. And then surely there will be no doubt as to who is the greatest of all time.


The innovation of Hawkeye and the challenge system in tennis has for the most part been a success. It has removed the heated exchanges that have sometimes occurred between players and officials which can only be a good thing. While there are some players, such as Federer and the Williams sisters who are not fans, for the most part the players seem to accept it and trust the technology to get the right result. There are also livelihoods at stake, in particular the lower ranked players who do not win the millions that the very top players get. For them a bad line call can mean a great deal of money and ranking points that are crucial to getting in the main draw of tournaments. So a lot of good has come about from its use.
However there are two concerns involving hawkeye. One is that a player can use the challenge to deliberately affect his or her opposition’s momentum. The other is the more annoying of the two. And that is this constant habit of players looking to their coaches and support staff for advice on whether to challenge or not. If a coach is caught coaching a player during a match, they are warned and possibly even banned from being courtside. How is giving advice on whether to challenge not coaching a player? As far as I can tell there is very little difference. Hence, it equates to cheating. Even worse, as one commentator pointed out during the coverage, is asking the umpire how close the ball was to the line. This is no different to being coached during a match.
What next? Maybe get the umpire to play the game for them as well.


At the beginning of the Tournament, I didn’t think I would survive two weeks listening to the excessive grunting that some players regularly indulge in. I am happy to say that as the tournament progressed, the grunting appeared to regress. Even Serena William’s in the final, was for the most part quiet. And that’s just the way, I suspect, we all like it. Let their rackets make all the noise.