In a week that witnessed more withdrawals from it than bank customers at an ATM (please don’t sue me), Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer must be wondering how it would have been better to be on the withdrawal bandwagon rather than suffering rare and embarrassing defeats.
First was world number five Nadal, brimming with a champion’s confidence having just won his favourite Grand Slam, the French Open, a record eighth time on the back of losing just two matches since making a return from a long term knee injury, fell to a player ranked 130 places below him at that point… worse still, in straight sets.
Steve Darcis’ shock 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 win in the first round paved way for an equally shocking defeat in the second round as world number two Roger Federer, after winning the first set, ended up losing 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 7-6 to 116th ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky.
And to make their losses as frustrating as humanly possible, Darcis withdrew from Wimbledon with a shoulder problem (side effects of beating a hard hitter like Nadal) while Stakhovsky, in the very next round after beating Federer, lost 6-2 2-6 7-5 6-3 to Jurgen Melzer. Would Melzer have beaten Federer? We’ll never know.
The shock losses spilled into the women’s section with third seed Maria Sharapova losing in straight sets of 6-3 6-4 to Michelle Larcher De Brito while French Open semifinalist Sara Errani was bundled out earlier in the first round.
Those shock exits, coupled with the withdrawals of Jo Wilfred Tsonga (who was down two sets to one when he did, go figure), Marin Cilic, Radek Stepanek and John Isner in the male section as well as Viktoria Azarenka in the female means that – much as they would want you to believe otherwise – the path to the final is much less perilous than originally would have been (at least on paper) for top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams as well as Britain’s shining hope Andy Murray… maybe David Ferrer too.
As to claims that the playing surface is to blame for the diluge of withdrawals, organisers of the third slam on the calendar stated “The factual evidence, which is independently checked, is that the courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality”. Simply put, ‘quit whining and get on with it’.
So we move on from the grass surface of SW19 to the grass at Brazil where Spain will face the host nation in the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup after edging out the Italians 7-6 on (well taken) penalties following a goalless 120 mnutes; much better than last time both met at the final of the Euros last year where the Spaniards ran out 4-0 winners.
This final, which is the very fixture anticipated by all from the start of the Confederations Cup, will be a major test of how good or otherwise the Brazilian team is ahead of next summer’s World Cup just as it would inevitably serve as a stage to see what Neymar can pull off against pretty much the players he will play with and against when La Liga kicks off for the 2013/14 season.
As for Spain, it’s a chance to fare much better than the third place finish they managed at the last Confederations Cup in South Africa as well as extend an unbeaten run of matches that has been since November 2011 when England beat them in a friendly.
Spanish fans will also be looking out for their U20 national side vying for the World Youth Championship in Turkey, having just made the first knockout round there by finishing top of Group A with nine maximum points ahead of France, Ghana (who have a slim chance of qualifying as one of the best third placed countries) and the United States.
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles are also through to the knockout round after finishing Group B in second place with six points, a point behind Portugal, after beating South Korea by a lone goal in their final group match on Thursday. And as it stands, Nigeria may well be the only African nation left competing after the final round of group matches in Groups E and F are played later today.
For one, Egypt, without a point, need a big win against England in Group E to either qualify or at least keep England from doing so for Ghana’s sake, just as Uruguay must be beaten by table topping Uzbekistan in Group F to aid Ghana’s cause while also sealing their (the Uzbek’s) qualification.
Murky, twisted situation that but no where as murky as Silvio Berlusconi’s situation with the law in Italy, after a ruling by three judges in a case of sleeping with an underaged girl found him guilty, sentenced him to seven years in prison and also banned him from partaking in politics… but there’s a catch.
Apparently, Berlusconi, who is the owner of Serie A giants AC Milan, was sentenced to four years in prison last year after being convicted of tax evasion but hasn’t served a minute in prison. Why? An appeal process must be completed in both cases (yes, the man has appealed) and due to the multiple stages involved in the appeal process, it could take years before being settled.
Hence, Berlusconi may well never serve jail time for his convictions. Lionel Messi on his part, would also likely not serve jail time over the tax evasion allegations levelled against him recently in Spanish court after agreeing to pay an amount between €15m and €21m to the tax authorities there. So not only are the Spaniards winning on the field of play, they also are in the court and more so against a No. 10 touted as the best ever. Tough world.
Likely tougher for those who will face Juventus next season, especially in the Serie A, after the league champions completed the deal to bring Argentine forward Carlos Tevez over from oil rich Manchester City in a £7.6m steal that could rise to £12m… still a steal of a deal for Juve.
Other players that have or will be moving include Andrei Arshavin who returned to Zenit St. Petersburg after the expiration of his contract at Arsenal, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet who joined Liverpool from Sunderland, Chelsea’s Marko Marin who will spend next season on loan at Sevilla, Lille’s Dimitri Payet who will sign for Olympique Marseille next week and Isco who will be Carlo Ancelotti’s first signing (per se) from sorry Malaga.
Malaga have now lost manager Manuel Pellegrini to Manchester City and Isco to Real right after losing Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal to Arsenal in the last year. Heap on the ban from UEFA competitions due to not meeting certain Financial Fair Play regulations and you can’t but feel sorry for a modest side that made the Champions League quarterfinals last season.
A bit of sympathy too for Red Bull driver Mark Webber who announced during the week that he would quit Formula 1 at the end of this season to join Porsche’s new sportscar programme and will compete at the LeMans 24 hour race with them.
Webber had been in the midst of a controversial team ‘bust-up’ this season, when teammate and world champion Sebastien Vettel ignored team orders and overtook Webber at the Malaysian grand prix. Vettel apologised soon after, only to then state that he would do same if both drivers were in the same situation again.
While Webber would deny that incident isn’t responsible for his decision to quit the sport, all indications point to it really, more so after it was confirmed that he received offers from at least one top team to join them next season. For the moment, that’s about it with the roundup from the week.
On this day in 1880, France annexed Tahiti and probably annexed every ounce of the latter’s footballing talents along. And in 2007, Apple Inc. released its first mobile phone, the iPhone.
Happy birthday to gospel singer Don Moen (63), pop singer Nicole Scherzinger (35), Argentine football midfielder Ever Banega (25), French football midfielder Yann M’Vila (23) and the young doctor Obinna Nnewuihe (20-I really can’t tell you). Best wishes to him and everyone else celebrating today.
Have a pleasant day wherever this post meets you.