Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Great shots, crazy shorts -- Wawrinka's Roland Garros legacy!

Forget the breathtaking backhands, formidable forehands and astonishing aces that Stanislas Wawrinka produced during his magnificent run to the French Open title -- it was his bizarre red and white checked shorts that stole the limelight on Sunday.

Where did he get the design? A pair of pyjamas tucked away in his father's wardrobe, or was it from a 1970's wallpaper still hanging on an old relative's house? Perhaps it was from a blanket handed down in the family over generations.

The hullabaloo over his "lost property" park-player outfit was not lost on the new champion on Sunday as he draped the baggy shorts over the dais in front of him, placing them next to the gleaming Musketeers' Cup.

"I know a lot of people talk about it, and it's quite funny that they won the French Open," grinned Wawrinka after joining the likes of Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl in completing the boys' trophy-Musketeers' Cup double at Roland Garros.

A few days after declaring he was going to "swim, play tennis and then sleep in them", he announced that the star attraction of the 2015 French Open was heading for a new home.

"They will be in the museum of Roland Garros. You will see my shorts every day if you want," he added to hoots of laughter.

"Everybody talks about those shorts since I put them on. Apparently I'm the only one who likes it."

Jokes aside, Wawrinka was still struggling to digest the fact that he had won a second grand slam title, and did it by overcoming a player who had until Sunday, been unbeatable on clay in 2015.

Novak Djokovic was on a 28 match winning streak. The world number one had beaten nine-times champion Rafa Nadal and third seed Andy Murray to enter the final with a 16-0 record on clay this year.

The Serb had also beaten Wawrinka in 17 of their previous 20 meetings.

Despite the stats stacked against him, Wawrinka showed that what happens in the past does not dictate the future.

"To say that I won the French Open, it's something completely crazy," said the 30-year-old.

"Winning this one is really special, playing Novak here in final, the number one player. He won almost everything since beginning of the year.

"I'm still surprised the way I played, because I think I played amazing today. I was really nervous but I didn't choke. I was always going for my shots."

A slow-starter who won his first major at the Australian Open 18 months ago, Wawrinka added: "It's quite strange when I tell myself that I have an (Olympic) gold medal, the Davis Cup and two grand slams. It's quite amazing. Never expected that so late in my career." 

Monday, 8 June 2015

"Stan-the-Man" outmuscles Djokovic to lift maiden French Open title!

World No.9 Stanislas Wawrinka claimed his second Grand Slam title and maiden French Open crown after beating world No.1 Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in the final here on Sunday.

Djokovic's dream of completing the career Grand Slam went in vain as the Swiss outplayed the eight-time Grand Slam champion in a four-set thriller here, thus claiming his second Grand Slam crown after winning his first in 2014 Australian Open.

Wawrinka staved off an immediate break point in the opening game of the match, and a pulsating 39-shot rally punctuated a hard-fought hold for the Swiss.
But Djokovic's efforts to take a first-set lead would not be thwarted two games later, breaking to love when Wawrinka double faulted down 0/40.

With former World No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten and Bjorn Borg in attendance, along with Mansour Bahrami and actor Clive Owen, Djokovic, with some top shots, claimed the first set 6-4.

Wawrinka came back strongly in the second set, winning a pair of break chances to take a 3-1 lead.

With Djokovic serving at 4-5 30/0, the Swiss struck a sublime return on a leaping kick serve and laced a backhand winner.

A backhand unforced error would give Wawrinka his sixth break point of the match - and first set point - and this time he would not let it slip, forcing the top seed to misfire from the baseline after a grueling exchange of backhand power. Four straight points from 30/0 down for the eighth seed and the match was drawn level at a set apiece.

As the third set began, the Swiss continued to apply the pressure on Djokovic. But the World No. 1 was ruthless with his back against the wall, saving an additional three break points in the second game.

With the momentum vacillating between the two competitors in the early stages of the third set, Wawrinka saw another opening on Djokovic's serve and finally converted.

A near-flawless return game granted him a 0/40 lead behind two roped backhand winners and he would break to love, pulling ahead 4-2. He ripped 15 winners and won 19 of 21 first serve points in the third, claiming all six points when venturing to the net.

Wawrinka's fortunes at the net would change momentarily in the second game of the fourth set as a netted approach followed by a backhand error gave the Serb an immediate 2-0 lead.

Djokovic would consolidate for 3-0, but that's where his run would come to an abrupt end. Wawrinka reeled off 12 of the next 15 points to break back and draw level at 3-all.

An ill-advised Djokovic serve and volley on a second serve at 4-all deuce gave Wawrinka his 15th break point of the match.

The Swiss would not be denied the break, nor the match, converting on his second championship point at 5-4 with his 60th winner of the match, a rifled backhand down the line.

With the title, Wawrinka also become the sixth former Roland Garros boys' champion to win the men's title.

Barcelona beat Juventus to take Champions League glory!

Barcelona completed the Treble with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final.

Barca, who had already won the Spanish title and the Copa Del Rey, won their second Treble in six years, becoming the first team to ever do it twice.

Ivan Rakitic gave Barca the lead very early on only for Alvaro Morata to equalise against the run of play. But Barca were not to be denied as Luis Suarez put them back in front and Neymar made sure with the last kick of the game.

Barcelona went in front after only three minutes and 22 seconds, Juventus having no answer to the Spanish side's speed of thought on the ball.

Neymar's first touch was poor but he showed great awareness to find a late run into the box by Andres Iniesta, and he needed only a moment to flick a pass into the centre of the area for the unmarked Rakitic to dink the ball past Gianluigi Buffon.

It was nearly two just five minutes later when Neymar fired over from outside the area.

Juventus came into the game a little after this, though it would have been difficult not to from that starting position. It was Barca who dominated possession as they always do, although they were restricted to half-chances for a period.

Juve wanted a penalty for a trip on Paul Pogba in the 35th minute. Jordi Alba made the challenge, it was clumsy but Pogba was fouled outside the area and fell into it -- though the referee waved play on.
Moments later Barca were back on the attack, Suarez poking a shot just wide from the edge of the box. And Suarez then brought the best out of Buffon, his snap shot palmed over the bar by the goalkeeper.

Barca should have doubled their lead five minutes into the second half, streaming forward on a 5 vs. 3 break from a Juve corner. But the Spanish giants did not work the counter well, and eventually Suarez had to stab at his shot, which Buffon turned around the post.

Messi then fired over after some wonderful one-touch football. Juve were struggling to stay in the match, and the second goal seemed a matter of time.

The second goal did come, but against the run of play at the other end, in the 55th minute.

A wonderful back-heel from Claudio Marchisio played Stephan Lichtsteiner into the box, with his low cross into the centre finding Carlos Tevez to spin expertly to force a save out of Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But the keeper could only parry the ball out as far as former Real Madrid striker Morata, who coolly sidefooted home from six yards out.

Juve were growing in confidence now, and just after the hour Tevez fired over when in a promising position inside the D.

Just when the Serie A champions were getting on top, Barca retook the lead in the 68th minute. Messi burst towards goal though his shot was certainly not one of his best, but Buffon could only palm the ball into the path of the onrushing Suarez who rifled into the roof of the net.

Two minutes later Barca thought they had a third when Neymar headed home. Juve players were incensed about a handball as the Brazilian ran away to celebrate, and the fifth official behind the goal backed their appeals. Replays showed the striker was unlucky, as he headed the ball onto his own arm rather than controlling it deliberately.

Pogba had a fine chance to equalise in the 79th minute, but could only head onto the roof of the net.
Marchisio forced a good save out of Ter Stegen in the closing minute of the 90, but as Juve pushed for the extra time it was Barca who scored again with the last kick as Neymar netted.

Serena beats Safarova to win French Open!

World No.1 Serena Williams clinched her 20th Grand Slam title by beating Czech 13th seed Lucie Safarova to claim the French Open here on Saturday.

American Serena needed two hours and one minute to win 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2 at Roland Garros.

Safarova was playing her first Grand Slam final. She put up a spirited fight despite losing the first set. She led by a break in the deciding third set but Williams utilised her vast experience and kept her composure to win the last six games.

Serena, 33, became the third player - male or female - to win 20 major singles titles.
Only Germany's Steffi Graf on 22 has won more since the open era began in 1968, with Australia's Margaret Court collecting 24 between 1960 and 1973.

It looked like it was going to be an easier day at the office for a while for Serena - after just over an hour on the court she found herself up a set and a double break at 6-3, 4-1, even going up 40-15 in that game - double game point for a seemingly unstoppable 6-3, 5-1 lead.

The match turned in a big way from there. Safarova dug out of that double game point and ended up winning five of the next seven games to push the second set to a tie-break, and after she raced through that tie-break, she raced out to an early 2-0 lead in the third set - Williams was in real danger.
But like she has done so many times in her illustrious career, she fought back to win six games in a row to edge Safarova.

An elated Williams spoke of her relief at winning a difficult match.

"It got really complicated today," Williams said.

"I was getting a little bit nervous, and Lucie was just playing great. She was a magnificent opponent. She was playing very aggressive and she had no fear."

"To win my 20th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros is very special for me because I haven't always had the most success here. I want to thank all of the fans - it's just a dream that I've won this title," she said.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Sepp Blatter resigns as FIFA president!

FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Tuesday announced he will step down from football's governing body amid a corruption scandal, and also called for an extraordinary congress "as early as possible" at which a successor will be elected. 

The Swiss announced his decision at a hastily-arranged press conference on Tuesday after his secretary-general Jerome Valcke was earlier implicated in the US Department of Justice's investigations into a $10 million payment to indicted former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, reports

"I have thoroughly thought about my presidency and the 40 years FIFA has played in my life. I love FIFA more than anything else and I only want to do the best. I decided to stand again for election for the good of football," Blatter said.

"My mandate does not appear to be supported by everybody. This is why I will call an extraordinary meeting. I will organize extraordinary congress for a replacement for me as president. I will not stand."

"I am now free from the constraints of an election. I will be in a position to focus on profound reforms. For many years we have called for reforms. But these are not sufficient."
"We need a limitation on mandates and terms of office. I have fought for these changes but my efforts have been counteracted."

Blatter has been president since 1998, and was re-elected for a fifth term only four days before his resignation.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Lionel Messi double gives Barcelona Cup final win over Athletic Bilbao!

Lionel Messi scored an outrageous solo goal as La Liga champions Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao to win the Copa del Rey and edge closer to the treble.

The four-time world player of the year lit up the Nou Camp when he evaded numerous challenges on the right wing and then surged into the area before firing home a firm, low shot.
Neymar tapped in his 38th goal this campaign, before Messi scored his 58th with the outside of his boot.

Inaki Williams headed in late on. That effort in the 79th minute was a small blip in an otherwise superb performance by Luis Enrique's side at their home, the Nou Camp.

A repeat display against Juventus in next week's Champions League final will almost certainly see them complete their second ever continental treble, having become the first La Liga side to do so in 2009.

On Saturday there were many fantastic moments of Barca interplay, but the highlight of the match, and maybe the Spanish season, involved just one player - Messi.

The 27-year-old Argentina forward started on the right and surrounded by Athletic players in the lead up to the opening goal, but managed to squeeze through a gap, sprint into the box, shift the ball past one more defender before striking a shot low past goalkeeper Iago Herrerin.

"Leo is spectacular, he is a star," said Neymar. "For me he is the best in the world and it is an honour to be part of this team with players of such quality."

If that was an individual goal of the highest standard, then Neymar's was a team goal of equal quality.
Quick passing around the area between Messi and Ivan Rakitic ended with Luis Suarez squaring the ball to Neymar to slot in. It was another goal for the Brazilian in what has been a superb debut season at Barcelona.

Messi scored his second of the night and his 58th this season with a stunning close-range finish after the break which meant he, Suarez and Neymar have now scored 120 goals in all competitions for the Catalan club this campaign.

Barca took a more relaxed approach in the last 15 minutes, and Athletic - 23-time winners of the competition - made the most of their opportunity when Williams headed in from six yards out.
Xavi came on as a late substitute in his final appearance for Barcelona at the Nou Camp. And the Spaniard, who will be ending a 17-year association, almost scored a fourth when his brilliant free-kick struck the post.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Blatter wins fifth FIFA term as challenger concedes!

Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA for a fifth term on Friday after his only challenger conceded defeat in an election overshadowed by allegations of rampant corruption in world soccer.

Blatter won despite demands that he quit in the face of a major bribery scandal being investigated by U.S., Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged soccer's governing body into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

Yet his mandate, which was far from convincing, raises fresh questions over his leadership with the possibility of civil war in international football, unhappy sponsors demanding reform and prosecutors looking to widen their investigations.

Neither Blatter nor Jordanian opponent Prince Ali bin Al Hussein received the necessary two thirds of votes in the first round, with Blatter securing 133 votes against 73 for Prince Ali. However, Prince Ali swiftly conceded.

"I congratulate you if you voted for Prince Ali, he was a good candidate, but I am the president now, the president of everybody," the 79-year-old Blatter said in his victory speech, knowing he faces a barrage of criticism and countless problems.

UEFA, the powerful European confederation, has been staunchly opposed to another term for the Swiss official and UEFA president Michel Platini has even raised the possibility, albeit unlikely, of Europe boycotting the World Cup.

There has also been talk of UEFA breaking away from FIFA, which is also unlikely, but nothing can be ruled out.

Blatter's future could yet depend on the reaction of FIFA's major sponsors and stakeholders who have been deeply dismayed by the dawn arrests in Zurich on Wednesday of several FIFA officials and U.S. prosecutors announcing indictments of officials and companies.

A senior U.S. Internal Revenue Service official said on Friday he thought there would be further indictments, the New York Times reported.

"I'm fairly confident that we will have another round of indictments," Richard Weber, the chief of the IRS unit in charge of criminal investigations, was quoted as saying by the Times, but he would not identify the remaining targets of the investigation.

One top sponsor, Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser beer, said after Blatter's win that: “We expect the next FIFA presidency to resolve internal issues, install positive change and adhere to strong ethical standards and transparency."

FIFA, ruled over by Blatter since 1998 and long subject to suspicions of corruption and internal probes, has had a traumatic week with law enforcement stepping in with allegations of financial wrongdoing stretching back 24 years.

Blatter has batted away the controversy, relying on his network of friends to hold on to power at FIFA, (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).

Prince Ali, in his pitch for votes, had pledged an open, more democratic FIFA, saying: "We have heard in recent days, voices which described our FIFA as an avaricious body which feeds on the game that the world loves.

"There are no easy answers. And no blame that can be cast that will wash away the stain that marks us all," he said.


Blatter told FIFA TV that he knows how to create a better image for the organization and promises to unveil surprising plans on the first working day of his new term.

"It was a very difficult Congress due to the circumstances of these events," Blatter said. "I would say also kind of tragic events, Wednesday and Thursday in Zurich and all with the media in the world, what they said about FIFA."

While Asian, African and Latin American states had been expected to rally around Blatter, Europe, which accounts for all but three of the countries that have ever made it to the final of the World Cup, had been keen for him to step aside.

European soccer chiefs said after the vote that FIFA had to embrace reform. "Change in my opinion is crucial if this organisation is to regain its credibility," said Platini.

In federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday, one of the people accused, the American head of a Brazilian sports marketing company, pleaded not guilty to bribery-related charges.

Aaron Davidson, 44, head of Traffic Group's U.S. unit in Miami, is accused by prosecutors of securing contracts worth more than $35 million for the unit he ran and of arranging bribes for Jeffrey Webb, a FIFA vice president. A judge granted Davidson bail but ordered him to be put under house arrest in Miami and to wear an electronic monitoring device.

The United States, which last hosted the World Cup in 1994, is interested in hosting the 2026 edition but has not yet formally applied. U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement after Blatter's re-election that it would "continue to push for meaningful change within FIFA."

Monday, 25 May 2015

Magnificent Mumbai slay Super Kings, clinch IPL!

Mumbai Indians came up with a scintillating performance to win the 2015 IPL as they beat Chennai Super Kings by 41 runs in the final at the Eden Gardens on Sunday.

MS Dhoni's decision to field first backfired as Mumbai posted a daunting total of 202 to tighten their grip on the title.

Chasing 203, Chennai needed a flying start but openers Dwayne Smith and Mike Hussey were tied down by the Chennai bowlers.

Although Smith scored a half-century, the likes of Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo and Faf du Plessis failed to fire as the men in blue were crowned champions for the second time. 

On a night where Chennai had to do everything right, they faltered as their skipper although having won the toss was left to rue.

Earlier, displaying an awesome batting performance, Mumbai Indians posted a daunting 202/5 against Chennai Super Kings.  

Put in to bat, the Mumbai Indians built their innings around two partnerships, as they set an asking rate of 10.15 for Chennai on a flat strip.

A rollicking 119-run second-wicket stand between opener Lendl Simmons (68; 45b, 8x4, 3x6) and skipper Rohit Sharma (50; 26b, 4x6, 6x2) took the team to a position of solidity after the loss of opener Parthiv Patel in the opening over itself.

Kieron Pollard (36; 18b, 2x4, 3x6) and Ambati Rayudu (36; 24b, 3x6) then forged a 71-run partnership for the fourth wicket off only 40 balls to pile on the Chennai Super Kings bowlers' misery.

Caribbean Simmons, who has batted with his characteristic flamboyance through the tournament, opened up in the fourth over, picking up a four and six off Ravichandran Ashwin. A dozen came off the over.

Next he took on Ravindra Jadeja in the sixth over, plundering 14 runs.

Simmons reached his half century with a somewhat lucky shot, an edge, as Pawan Negi only managed to get his hands to the leather before it slipped out. The batsmen ran two, and Mumbai were 98/1 at the halfway stage.

The hundred came in 10.1 overs with Simmons disdainfully dispatching Jadeja to the boundary.

Rohit, who has always found Eden a happy hunting ground, went on the offensive from the word go, smacking Mohit Sharma for 16 runs in the second over, before unleashing some exquisite strokes during his stay in the middle.

Dwayne Bravo finally broke the partnership by foxing Rohit with a slower ball. Mumbai were 120/3 in 12 overs.

Simmons returned in the very next delivery, yorked by Dwayne Smith.

Trinidadian Pollard and Rayudu then came together and beat the bowlers to pulp on the foundation laid by Simmons and Rohit.

Pollard belted Nehra for 23 runs in the 17th over, that included three sixes and one boundary.

The match saw action in the very first over sent down by Ashish Nehra. Jolting the Mumbai Indians, diminutive open Parthiv Patel went back without bothering the scorer, victim of an outlandish fielding by Faf du Plessis.

The batsman went for a flick, but failed to execute it properly, and set off for a run as Plessis closed in on the ball at mid on. However, the South African displayed razor-sharp reflexes, as he dived, lost his balance, but still in one action managed to unsettle the bails.