The thing about expectations sometimes… a lot of times actually, is that it is the unexpectant who truly relish the good that comes their way or otherwise tend to best manage a disappointment. And the week was full of both sides, from unexpected joy to the not so expected disappointments.
Ahead of the US Open, much talk was made about the possibility of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer meeting for the first time in the final grand slam of the at the quarterfinal stage. People also looked forward to how well defending champion Andy Murray would do at Flushing Meadows.
Following routine opening round wins, Roger Federer was first to go as the Swiss former world number one was beaten in straight sets by Tommy Robredo in only the fourth round, only for Robredo to get thrashed out in straight sets by a ruthless Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Federer’s defeat, which will likely see him drop even lower than his current low of seventh on the world rankings by Monday morning, drove home the point that the Swiss master is well past his dominating best days.
Andy Murray’s quarterfinal loss to the long upcoming Swiss ninth seed Stanslas Wawrinka, in brutal straight sets, set up a not so likely US Open semifinal clash with world number one Novak Djokovic who dropped a set against Mikhail Youzhny but was largely untroubled in a four set win over the Russian veteran.
The expectation would be for Djokovic to win and set up a potentially intriguing final against Nadal who faces eighth seed Richard Gasquet in the other semifinal. But from results in earlier rounds, the men’s draw has taught us all to be unexpectant and simply enjoy the sublime tennis on display.
In the women’s draw however, it’s all gone to plan as top seeds Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka powered through the rounds to set up the much expected final match which will be played much later today.
Azarenka went past Flavia Pennetta of Italy in her semifinal while world number one Serena lost only three games as she crushed China’s Li Na 6-0 6-3 before however being knocked out of the doubles event with her sister Venus.
Not much change would reflect on the women’s world ranking with Serena set to maintain top spot ahead of Azarenka. The men’s rankings however should witness a host of changes below Djokovic and Nadal, more so if both lose their semifinal matches.
Nadal’s country Spain meanwhile remain on course to qualify for the football World Cup next year in Brazil, with Vicente Del Bosque’s side now on 14 points from six matches and edging closer to sealing passage to the mundial following a 2-0 win at Finland in one of many qualifiers played last night.
France went three points behind the Spaniards in Group I after being held to a goalless draw at Georgia, leaving Les Bleus needing a big win at Belarus next week to replace Spain atop the group albeit having played a game more.
In Group F, a Cristiano Ronaldo hattrick helped Portugal come from behind to beat Northern Ireland 4-2 and remain top of with 17 points, two points ahead of Russia that beat Luxembourg 4-1 in Moscow.
Danny Welbeck scored twice and Rickie Lambert put in yet another commendable display as England eased to a 4-0 win over Moldova to go top of Group H with 15 points, ahead of Montenegro – that have played a game more – on difference, while Ukraine demolished San Marino 9-0 to stay in third place with 14 points.
Poland’s hopes of qualifying from the group remain faint as a Robert Lewandowski strike earned a 1-1 draw at home to Montengro and keep them in fourth place on 10 points, though an expected win at San Marino next week would boost their hopes, more so with England facing Ukraine in Kyiv in the group’s other match next week.
Elsewhere, the Netherlands needed a stoppage time Robin van Persie penalty to salvage a 2-2 draw from their trip to Estonia though a win from their final three matches would seal qualification to the World Cup. As would for Germany from Group C after beating neighbours Austria 3-0 in a match Miroslav Klose became the German national team’s joint all time leading goalscorer with 68 goals.
Italy edged closer to qualification with a hardfought 1-0 win at home to Bulgaria in Group B, goals from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas late on handed Belgium a 2-0 win at Scotland to leave the Red Devils a win from qualification from Group A while elsewhere in the group, Aaron Ramsey’s penalty was mere consolation as Wales, with €100m Gareth Bale left on the bench, fell 2-1 at Macedonia.
Bale was left out by Welsh boss Chris Coleman no thanks to ‘severely lacking match fitness’, largely brought about by his move to Real Madrid where he was unveiled on Monday. The unveiling would however get overshadowed by turn of events in the transfer market as clubs rushed to finalise deadline day deals.
And most prominent of all was Arsenal spending almost three times its previous transfer record to secure the signing of German midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for £42.4m, shocking fans and rivals to silence over the club breaking from their norm and, along with the arrival of Mathieu Flamini days ago and Emiliano Viviano hours before Ozil, making the Gunners title contenders all of a sudden.
Reigning Premier League champions Manchester United eventually completed the signing of Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5m, after their chase of Ander Herrera ended in debacle while their loan move for Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao thought to have been finalised turned out otherwise.
Other significant transfers saw Kaka return to AC Milan on a free transfer from Real Madrid, Romelo Lukaku join Everton on loan from Chelsea, as did Gareth Barry from Manchester City while Merseyside neighbours Liverpool completed the signing of Mamadou Sakho from PSG.
The Reds are now considered as possible title contenders as well having started the campaign on a high with three wins from three, all without star player Luis Suarez who has three matches of his 10 match ban for biting left to serve.
Being on the sidelines for his club has however changed little about Suarez who grabbed all the attention for good and bad, scoring both goals in Uruguay’s 2-1 win at Peru in one of four World Cup qualifying matches played in South America, earning a penalty with a dive apparently before getting an opposition defender sent off minutes after.
The win made Suarez the all time leading scorer for Uruguay and brought his country within two points of fourth placed Ecuador that lost by a lone goal at Colombia. Ecuador remain on 21 points after 13 games, five points behind leaders Argentina and second placed Colombia while Chile rose to third on 24 points from 14 matches following a 3-0 win over Venezuela.
In Africa, Ghana reached the final round of World Cup qualification with a 2-1 win at home to second placed Zambia in a Group D match, joining Egypt, Algeria and Cote D’Ivoire that have all made it through with a game to spare.
Six more places in the final round will be filled this weekend from matches across the continent later today, including Malawi’s trip to face Nigeria in a Group F encounter and South Africa needing a win and another result to go their way to reach the final round.
Malawi, with seven points, need an outright win to qualify while the Super Eagles, with nine points, only need to avoid defeat to edge closer to Brazil 2014. A similar scenario to Group F is found in Group B where the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, leading with 11 points, welcome Cape Verde with nine points to Tunis in the final group match there.
More drama however will come from Groups A and E where three countries each in both groups have solid chances of qualifying. In Group E, leaders Congo with 10 points travel to face bottom side Niger Republic while Gabon, with seven points in third place, must defeat second placed Burkina Faso that has nine points and then hope Congo lose at Niger to pick the sole qualifying ticket there.
And in Group A, Ethiopia will be out to seal qualification once and for all with a win at bottom of the table Central African Republic, having earlier sealed qualification with a 2-1 win over South Africa only to be found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in an earlier match against Botswana, thus handing the latter three points and three goals at the Ethiopians expense. Now Botswana and South Africa will both play for a win at Durban and hope Ethiopia lose at CAR.
Rounding off, on this day just last year Canada officially cut diplomatic ties with Iran by closing its embassy in Tehran and ordering the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, over support for Syria, nuclear plans and alleged rights abuses.
You’d have thought Assad got the hint back then but oh no, we’re on the brink of watching Syria get bombarded by the United States while Russia keenly observes the whole mess.
Here’s to a peaceful weekend to us all wherever we are. Hope Nigeria reaches the final World Cup qualifying round. Cheers!