Posts Tagged Maria Sharapova

Chic Fight Ahead of Wimbledon, Poyet Fired Live in London and More


I’m sorry for being away for long from here, however credible my reasons are. Between the top two women’s tennis players meanwhile, Serena Williams apologised to Maria Sharapova… also without stating exactly what she was apologising for.

Williams had earlier made comments concerning an unnamed tennis player – presumed Sharapova – and a man with a black heart; Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, comments which Sharapova deemed uncalled for from a person who isn’t morally pious herself.

“If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.” – Sharapova.

Interestingly, Sharapova’s comments on Serena’s comments came days after Serena supposedly apologised to her sporting adversary at a WTA party last week. Serena believes Sharapova accepted her apology, but Sharapova making those comments days later however implies the contrary.

More interestingly is that Dimitrov and Serena dated briefly last year but it gets even better as it is Dimitrov that suppodedly introduced Serena to her present getting-a-divorce-and-has- kids boyfriend Patrick Mouratoglou.

While reminding self that this media spat between Serena and Sharapova sparked off due to Serena’s remarks about a 16 year old girl’s rape in Ohio, it’s worthy to remind self also that the third grand slam on the calendar serves off today in London.

Dimitrov, who is 22 years old (yes, Serena was a cougar), will also participate at this year’s Wimbledon just as Mouratoglou, his former coach will be in London to support his former trainee’s ex-girlfriend, his girlfriend Serena.

Not far away, Gustavo Poyet will be chasing an appeal against Brighton and Hove-Albion after the latter bizarrely made the former their former coach while he was working as an analyst of Spain’s Confederations Cup match against Nigeria for the BBC.

And while the club claim Poyet was informed before then, the fired live on air Uruguayan, visibly rattled upon being told the news by BBC staff, denied any prior knowledge of the club’s decision to sack him.

Former Chelsea midfielder Poyet joined Brighton as manager in late 2009 and led them to promotion to the Championship, before leading them to the Championship playoffs last season where they lost to Crystal Palace that eventually won the playoffs and gained promotion to the Premier League.

Would’ve mattered little to Poyet hence that his country’s second team sealed qualification to the semi-final of the Confederations Cup with an 8-0 win over Group B’s whipping nation Tahiti.

The South American champions will now face hosts Brazil in the first semi-final on Wednesday after finishing second in the group behind world and European champions Spain that claimed a well earned 3-0 win over African champions Nigeria thanks to a Jordi Alba brace either side of Fernando Torres’s headed goal.

Indeed Spain could have scored more, with Vincent Enyeama denying Roberto Soldado while Cesc Fabregas somehow shot an effort to the foot of the post when scoring was the likeliest outcome, helplessly watching as Enyeama recovered to save.

Nigeria could have scored at least two as well, with Brown Ideye deciding to grow cold feet when tapping in to goal seemed the likeliest outcome for him. Spain now will face Italy in the second semi-final on Thursday while Nigeria’s senior national team head home.

The Super Eagles’ U20 counterparts as well fared no better against Iberian opposition after coming from two goals down to draw level at 2-2 with Portugal only to end up losing 3-2 in the opening Group B match of the U20 World Cup in Turkey.

Mali was Africa’s only representative among the four that started fairly, picking a point in the 1-1 draw with Paraguay’s U20 side in Group D. Egypt however lost 2-1 to Chile in a Group E match while Ghana’s U20 got beaten 3-1 by their French counterpart in a Group A match.

The Flying Eagles next face Cuba later today needing a win to keep alive hopes of making the second round before rounding off with a match against South Korea on Thursday.

By then, Wimbledon would be well underway. Hopefully, Serena and Sharapova will be on course for a showdown in the final of the women’s section while Novak Djokovic doesn’t mess up the better looking side of the draw he’s been given compared to the tougher looking side of the draw in which Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal find themselves.

To wrap up today’s post, is starting off a few more paragraphs to the biweekly posts, which would celebrate a few birthdays and notable historical events which you may or may not know of. An ‘On This Day’ section pretty much.

So here’s wishing worlds’ (yes, not world’s) footballer of the year Lionel Messi a happy 26th birthday. Hopefully he gets over his tax evasion case in the Spanish court.

Happy birthday also to ace comedian Alibaba, former Argentina playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme (33), delectable American actress Minka Kelly (33), Bayern Munich player David Alaba (21), singer/songwriter Solange Knowles who turns 27 today and to every one else born today.

Also on this day, American tennis player John Isner defeated Nicholas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 70-68 in the longest match in professional tennis history in a first round at the 2010 Wimbledon. The match lasted for 11 hours and five minutes over three days, with the final set alone going for just over eight hours.

Also on this day in 1947, the first widely reported sighting of a UFO was made near Mount Mournier in Washington DC by Kenneth Arnolds. Since then, we’ve had Steven Spielberg’s ET, the Men in Black franchise, Prometheus, the Fifth Element, Star Wars and a galaxy of others.

Finally on this day in 1374, a sudden outbreak of St. John’s Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion. Believe me, I didn’t make this one up and I would swear to it… but God says we shouldn’t swear so…

… on this feast day of St. John the Baptist, have yourself a great week wherever you are. Bless!

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Over the Weekend: Kenyans Ruffle Feathers, Vettel Ignores Orders & More


The Nigeria Professional Football League saw matchday three encounters hold across the country over the weekend, with Sunshine Stars of Akure going top of the table, a couple of big clubs getting back to winning ways and yet another away win being recorded.

At Akure, Sunshine Stars edged to an entertaining 3-2 victory over visiting Gombe United to go top of the league with seven points, a point ahead of six clubs led by Shooting Stars that claimed a 3-1 win over Lobi Stars.

Enugu Rangers is third, with a game in hand, and are followed by Bayelsa United and Enyimba after both won 2-0 at home to Wikki Tourists and El-Kanemi Warriors respectively, while Akwa United jumped to sixth with a lone goal win over league champions Kano Pillars that dropped to seventh to round-up the teams on six points.

In other results, Heartland thrashed Kaduna United 4-1, a goal just before the hour mark gave Kwara United a 1-0 win at Sharks of Port-Harcourt while ABS completed the Ilorin clubs’ double over Port Harcourt clubs with a 1-0 win over Dolphins in Ilorin.

Since the league suffered a number of postponements before eventually commencing earlier this month, a full programme of matches will take place in midweek and the weekend with Shooting Stars visiting Kano Pillars, Kwara United welcoming Heartland to Ilorin, Sunshine Stars going away to play Dolphins and Enyimba also being away at newly promoted Nembe City some of the midweek ties.

Apologies for stating in the last post that there would be no league matches over the weekend, the World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Kenya as well as the Flying Eagles’ final group match at the Africa Youth Championship taking place last Saturday led me to believe so.

Being the first match since, much to the pleasant surprise of pretty much all her citizens, conquering Africa at the Nations Cup, the expectation ahead of the qualifier against Kenya was, basically, to whitewash the East African visitors.

Alas Kenya took the lead, against the run of play, via a well struck free-kick nine minutes from half time. Before then, Victor Moses had had a shot blocked by a last ditch tackle while Brown Ideye saw a goal bound header cleared off the line.

Indeed Nigeria was playing well, John Mikel Obi particularly was impressive on the day with a few visionary passes but there crucially was no gainful end result coming and it was time to read the real script.

Second half almost followed the trend of the first, almost. The Kenyans parked their bus while the Super Eagles, champions of Africa, again and again sought after at least a goal. And just when a shocking home loss looked an inevitable conclusion to the encounter, just when Nigerian tweeters would have to swallow their tweets of Thursday… Nnamdi Oduamadi got Nigeria a face saving equaliser three minutes into the five minutes of stoppage time given.

Oduamadi, by a twist of fate, was a 75th minute substitute for the man whose goal won us the Nations Cup back in February, Sunday Mba. Mba surely passed on the ‘heroics’ spirit to Oduamadi.

On a serious note, the 1-1 draw, which leaves us level on five points with Malawi atop our qualifying group, probably is the perfect result for Nigeria at the moment. Hopefully it will have the Super Eagles show better precision in front of goal, more so with the FIFA Confederations Cup coming up.

In other World Cup qualifiers, Morocco fell to a shock 3-1 loss at Tanzania, Samuel Eto’o scored both goals as Cameroun edged Togo 2-1 in Yaounde, Ghana got a 4-0 win over Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire won 3-0 at home to Gambia and Equatorial Guinea emerged 4-3 winners in a thrilling affair against Cape Verde.

Away from the adults, the Flying Eagles qualified for the World Youth Championship holding later this year in Turkey after easing to a 3-1 win over DR Congo in their final Group B match at the ongoing AYC in Algeria.

All four AYC semi-finalists are now through to the WYC but Nigeria will hope to defend her AYC crown starting with a semi-final match against Group A winners Egypt. The other semi-final will see Mali face fellow West Africans Ghana.

In Formula One, Sebastien Vettel bolstered his chances of retaining the world drivers championship title for a third successive season by winning a dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix, albeit in rather unsavoury circumstances.

First Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso crashed out of the race very early on, then 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton; in his first season with Mercedes, erroneously made for a pit-stop at his former team McLaren’s, only to be waved through to his actual team’s pit.

The Briton would then have the benefit of team orders and finish third ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg who finished in fourth, after being told to not go past Hamilton in the closing stages of the race; a decision that left Hamilton embarrassed and feeling undeserving of his podium place in the post race press conference.

But Hamilton had it much better, as he didn’t have to deal with answering questions with Rosberg around, unlike Vettel who mostly kept being evasive and apologetic about the manner the race was won while Mark Webber tried to veil his massive anger/disappointment at the whole plot that had played out on the tracks.

Locked in a battle with his Redbull teammate with 15 laps to go, Vettel disregarded team orders to ease off Webber and ‘overtook’ the Australian on his way to going past the chequered flag first. Webber later admitted that he let his world champion teammate go ahead seeing as he wasn’t letting up.

While the above may be strange to aliens of Formula One, it is nearly common practise to have a team give certain orders that favours one of its drivers over the other. Michael Schumacher especially gained from such orders in the twilight of his time at Ferrari at the expense of Felipe Massa.

Vettel’s ‘disobedience’ however is a new one, made even worse by him replying that he is the faster of the Redbull drivers and hence, should be in the lead/shouldn’t be told to ease off. On a larger view, it could trip off a ripple of bad for Formula One as a competitive sport.

In hindsight, if Vettel had ‘allowed’ Webber win the race it would have put Webber on top of the drivers’ championship standings with 35 points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who finished in seventh in Malaysia, on 33 points while Vettel would be level on 33 points with Raikkonen in third place.

Alas what obtains now is Vettel being top with 40 points, Raikkonen second with 33 and Webber coming in at third with 28 points. Had the wisdom of the Redbull team principal prevailed, Webber winning the race and Vettel finishing second would have given Redbull same 68 points it has now anyway on the constructors’ championship standings, while more imperatively putting both drivers in good stead on the drivers’ championship standings.

That’s their mess to deal with internally though, and one gets the feeling now that a race would be tailored in favour of Webber for the sake of team spirit, which for now seems lost somewhere down the drain.

On a lighter note, in Tennis, Serena Williams made it to the fourth round of the Miami Masters with a straight sets win over Ayumi Morita of Japan, after riding to the venue of her match on a bicycle to beat traffic on the way and not be late for the encounter.

Older sister Venus Williams unfortunately retired due to injury, while former number one Caroline Wozniacki suffered a loss. Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na however made it to the next round with Serena.

On that note, here’s to a beat-the-deadline, no-bad-blood week ahead. Cheers.

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Over the Weekend: Barça Slip, AFCON for Sleep & Sharapova Rips


You know a team is very good when its lost matches make the headlines and Barcelona, following an unbeaten streak in the Spanish Primera Division from April 2012… 10 months, finally succumbed to defeat.

The manner of the Catalan cruise control footballers’ loss however was the surprising bit, letting go of a two-goal lead earned through goals from Zeus incarnate and Pedro in the opening 25 minutes and losing 3-2 at Real Sociedad.

Indeed Sociedad’s remarkable comeback, completed with an injury time winner, was much aided by Gerard Pique’s sending off just before the hour mark and Javier Mascherano’s ‘zzzz’ moment soon after but even a man down, Barça usually wouldn’t crumble as it did on Saturday night.

But like I said, the very good teams have their losses making headlines hence, with Barcelona now without a win in two successive matches – having been held by 10-man Malaga to a 2-2 draw in the quarterfinal first leg of the Copa Del Rey – it is only natural that ‘something is wrong’.

At least Atletico Madrid would hope so, taking advantage of Sociedad’s unlikely win with a 2-0 win at home to Levante. Unfortunately, leading scorer Radamel Falcao limped off ‘hamstrung’ to leave the task of cutting Barça’s eight-point lead at the top to Adrian and co.

As for Barça, I honestly hope Malaga actually get the required result in the return leg, just so sanity can be within the reach of Real Madrid that, in the event of Malaga not getting the required result, would have to play three El-Clasicos along with the two legs against Manchester United in the Champions League at a stretch.

Besides, it is too early in the year for more recycled reasons, arguments and analysis of who’s ultra-better between Zeus incarnate and Cristiano Ronaldo… Achilles if you may… right? WRONG! Who am I kidding? I hope Malaga get thrashed out of the Copa so Barça sets up that fortnight of godly football to look forward to, something Madrid would likely prefer to avoid!

AFCON 2013 Begins
Before then we may have endured an insufferable African Cup of Nations. Hopefully we wouldn’t but following the opening matches on Saturday, it did seem like it would be an absolutely dull Nations Cup as both Group A matches between hosts South Africa & debutantes Cape Verde and Morocco against Angola later on ended in goalless draws.

It flooded us with dark memories of Mali 2002 where goalless draws were the full time scores in about 33% of group stage matches, with a further 30% ending in dire lone goal wins; that’s seven goals scored in 15 out of 24 group stage matches! Never again oh Jesus, please!

And matchday Two on Sunday livened matters a bit, with DR Congo coming from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw against Ghana in Group B’s curtain raiser, while Mali left it rather late before edging Niger Republic by… a lone goal. Typical ’02 behaviour.

Underdogs Nigeria meanwhile get their campaign underway with a clash with Burkina Faso in a Group C match, preceded by Ethiopia squaring up to defending champions Zambia. Hopefully, the goals will come in these matches to further light up this Nations Cup.

Otherwise it would be just as the Premier Soccer League of the host nation is, good looking playing surfaces at the stadia along with cool ads for the competition, which itself is far below the standard it is packaged as.

Sharapova, Djoker Stay Unstoppable in Australia
On another continent down under, in another sport, the billings are being lived up to with some stunning displays coming from the players vying for the first grand slam of the year at the Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova at this moment looks the sure bet to get the slam in the female section, easing into the quarterfinals with a 6-1 6-0 stroll past Kirsten Flipkens.

That result meant the pretty Russian has won all four of her matches so far in straight sets, winning five of eight sets contested to love and losing just five games in those eight sets played so far.

Such beastly form from a beauty who will next face compatriot Ekaterina Makarova, after the 19th seed defeated fifth seed Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-4 in her last 16 encounter.

Over in the men’s draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic needed five hours to overcome talented Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka in five sets, winning the deciding fifth set 12-10 and setting up a last eight match with Tomas Berdych.

The epic win was the Djoker’s 18th consecutive win at the Australian Open and keeps him on course to become the first player in the Open era to win three successive Australian Open titles. Just three more matches DjokerNole!

Before then, two French men went at each other for almost five hours before Gilles Simon overcame Gael Monfils and set up what likely will be the end of his time down under in the hands of world number three Andy Murray.

Roger Federer continues to be a maestro on the court but world number four Rafael Nadal watches on, probably with a tight fist as he edges closer to his return from injury.

Bavarians March On, Red Devils Freeze Up
The Bundesliga resumed from its winter break with Bayern Munich maintaining its charge towards an umpteenth league title in a routine 2-0 win over bottom side Greuther Fürth while Bayer Leverkusen kept pace, albeit nine points adrift, with a 3-1 win over fourth placed Eintracht Frankfurt.

Champions Borussia Dortmund remain in third place, a dozen points off the top, but back in good form after demolishing Werder Bremen with five unreplied goals away from home.

In Spain, Real Madrid posted the same result from their trip to Valencia with Achilles and Mary’s Angel getting a brace each after Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring… and all five goals came in the first half.

With Barcelona losing, that display left the Merengues 15 points behind their bitter rivals still while still trailing their neighbours Atletico by seven points. Jose Mourinho’s getting the boot at this rate.

In Italy, Juventus got a 4-0 win with Paul Pogba scoring a spectacular brace to help Lega Calcio’s Old Lady open a five point gap on Napoli that drew 1-1 at Fiorentina and Lazio that could only manage a 2-2 draw at lowly Palermo.

Thankfully for those two (Napoli and Lazio), Inter Milan played a 1-1 draw at Roma in Sunday’s late kick-off, leaving Nerazzurri on 39 points, four points behind the sky blue duo and thus, allowing city rivals AC Milan come within five points of them after a 2-1 win at home to Bologna.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 19th league goal helped PSG return to the top of France’s Ligue Un with a lone goal win at Bordeaux, with Lyon dropping to second on goal difference after a goalless draw with Evian while Marseille is now a point behind in third place.

Finally from the Premier League, Robin van Persie’s 18th league goal proved not enough as fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur stole a point with a stoppage time equaliser at home to the Red Devils on Sunday.

That saw United’s lead at the top cut to five points as a David Silva brace had given champions Manchester City a 2-0 win at home to Fulham on Saturday.

Chelsea came out 2-1 victors over misfiring and misguided neighbours Arsenal, Loic Remy scored on his debut but had to settle for a point in QPR’s 1-1 draw at West Ham United and Osaze Odemwingie rescued a point for West Brom in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Midlands rival Aston Villa, before becoming a father on Sunday.

On that cheery note, it’s a wrap. Nigeria plays Burkina Faso later today, the first time I’ll see the Super Eagles play in months while the Australian Open enters its home run this week.

Hopefully, the DjokerNole gets the male title while Radwanska is also looking in championship form in the female section, which looks set for a competitive semi-final as defending champion Victoria Azarenka is also through to the last eight.

Have a productive week ahead. Till Saturday.

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During the Week: Lance Owns Up, Pep Shows Up & Venus’ Beat Up


Lance Armstrong opened up to being dope to mother confessor Oprah Winfrey, if only he meant it same way Wiz Khalifa would. That dopeness thus ended what was a glorious era that saw him ride to victory at seven successive Tour de France.

Like Marion Jones, another champion looked up to by many millions… *poof* just like that, down the truth drain. So, since he ‘confessed’ (to) it rather than being made a scapegoat as the US Cycling body was about to do, he will likely get reprieve from ‘those who matter’ and become their puppet per se, complete with a severance pay.

My issue now is, why would a man, who fought and won a battle against cancer then rode on a prestigeous path to seven victories, and who vehemently denied being dope of the Ben Johnson kind… own up just like that? Smokescreen entertainment for the media and by extension, the world?

Pep Makes Move
Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. One play the world certainly didn’t see coming was Pep Guardiola’s pre-appointment as Bayern Munich manager, to the utter surprise of god Wenger and silent relief of Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez (in some way, seeing as he’s an “interim manager”).

It’s not often that a manager becomes more sought after than a footballer. Footballers get paid high-end five figures (at least) every week to play (crap or otherwise) or be benchwarmers, or be deadwoods… or be Florent Malouda. Managers get paid to win or get fired! (Ed. note: Arsenal’s god is an exception. Well… okay… Man. United’s too. Everton’s as well).

Some managers however see the tactics formulate against them and leave when appropriate, as Guardiola who had won it all at Barcelona did before taking a year long hiatus from the game.

Pep’s pre-appointment by Bayern exuded a number of facts, including “some people still can’t be bought” since he could well have chosen £15m/year at Chelsea or something similar at Man. City and the Bundesliga will (hopefully) finally get the attention and coverage it deserves.

Much as the battle of philosophies by Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp of B.V.B Dortmund is an exciting prospect, I honestly don’t see Guardiola’s imminent arrival there as a battle of such for while it is glorious to be Bundesliga champions, I believe the German clubs are out to dominate the Champions League just as the Premier League did for a while.

And it most certainly isn’t about what ex-Barça manager is doing better though you have to spare a thought for Frank Rijkaard who got fired in Turkey about the same time Guardiola signed with the Bavarians and barely made ‘breaking news’ almost two days after.

Racism
Indeed the matter of racism in stadia is treated as passive though the president of football’s world governing body admittedly has a hard time managing such behaviour in this sport of ours.

While mostly, but not entirely against players walking off when racially abused as AC Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng did during a friendly match, he has suggested handing clubs of erring racist fans a points deduction punishment.

Obviously such action will not make a racist to stop being one but it could reduce drastically the occurence of racist abuse of footballers from the stands. But whatever happens outside the stadium therefore becomes out of FIFA’s jurisdiction.

Complicated as Blatter’s stand on the matter really. An example, though not borne of racism, comes with the attack of Serie A footballers’ close ones on the streets. Imagine then a racist attacking one of KPB’s close ones on the streets of Milan? What could FIFA do?

Proudly Aussie
The first tennis grand slam of the year began and home player Lleyton Hewitt set a record by appearing in his 17th successive Australian Open. Unfortunately, he lost his first round match.

That loss, which came after three keenly contested sets, marked the end (officially, for me) of players from my favourite ‘era’ of tennis that featured players such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Marat Safin, Cedric Piolin, Pat Rafter, a Chinese-American, Goran Ivanisevic, Tim Henman and many more.

Back to the present, the usual suspects have eased through the first week, most especially Maria Sharapova who hadn’t lost a game so far ahead of an enticing third round clash with former number one Venus Williams.

By the end of that ‘heavyweight’ clash, Sharapova has now lost just four games on her way to reaching the last 16, beating the ranking points well out of Venus in straight sets of 6-1 6-3.

Venus meanwhile joined Samantha Stosur as the major names shown the exit from the Open down under… this weekend and most likely next week should see more high profile names fall aside as the year’s first grand slam draws to a close then.

With that, it’s a wrap. The African Cup of Nations begins later today in South Africa with a match between the hosts and debutantes Cape Verde. As always, the Ivory Coast are favourites to be crowned champions but hey, I’ll be rooting my fatherland and (this time) underdogs Nigeria.

Out in Brazil meanwhile, Sao Caetano of the second division there has completed the signing of former World Footballer of the Year… Rivaldo. Yes, 1999 World Footballer of the Year Rivaldo.

Now 40, the midfielder who won the World Cup in 2002 joins the Sao Paolo club following a spell in Angola. Yes, the oil rich east African nation Angola. Rivaldo certainly loves to travel.

Elsewhere, the Bundesliga returns this weekend and Schalke and Hannover already provided the world with a goal glut on Friday night. And in the Premier League, leaders Man. United face Tottenham Hotspur at the Lane while Arsenal make the short trip to face Chelsea at the Bridge, a day after Theo Speedo finally signed da ting!

It promises to be an eventful weekend, which I’ll mostly spend reading for my exams… that’s the plan anyway.

Have yourselves a fabulous weekend then!

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